Stephen Curry Explodes for 48 Points as Warriors Edge Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2019

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) tries to make an opening against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)
Richard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press

Bad news for the rest of the NBA—the Golden State Warriors are starting to hit their stride as the second half of the 2018-19 campaign gets rolling.

Golden State won its fourth game in a row with a 119-114 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday at American Airlines Center, moving to 29-14 overall. It was just the fifth loss at home all season for Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, although they dropped to a mere 20-23 overall.

Stephen Curry drilled a go-ahead three-pointer with less than a minute remaining and torched the Mavericks defense for 48 points, six rebounds and five assists behind a blistering 11-of-19 shooting from three-point range. Kevin Durant added 28 points and seven boards in a supporting role.

Doncic spearheaded the effort for the Mavericks with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Harrison Barnes chipped in 22 points. They had the chance to tie it in the final seconds, but Barnes turned it over while trailing by three.

       

Boogie's Return Will Boost Curry's MVP Chances

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Doncic has made headlines all season, Durant and Dirk Nowitzki are future Hall of Famers, and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are regulars at NBA All-Star Games, but there was no doubt who the best player on the floor was in Sunday's clash.

Curry had 24 points by halftime and was darting his way through defenders, working off screens and finding the slightest of openings to unleash his lightning-quick shots over helpless defenders. It was another brilliant performance and the third time in five January games the two-time MVP scored at least 35.

He could be on his way to a third, as Sekou Smith of NBA.com listed him behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden when he broke down the MVP race.

Curry entered play averaging 28.8 points, 5.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds a night behind 44.3 percent shooting from three-point range, but his 11-game absence because of a groin injury is almost as much of a testament to his MVP candidacy as his production when he's on the floor.

Golden State was an ugly 5-6 in those contests in a pedestrian stretch for any team, let alone one that is in the discussion as the greatest in league history.

His own scoring from the perimeter shooting and drives is valuable enough, and the floor spacing he creates with his mere presence leads to open looks for his teammates. As a result, Golden State's net rating was plus-12.9 when he's on the floor and minus-2.7 when he's off it entering play, per NBA.com.

The Davidson product already moved into third on the all-time three-point list this season, and he is about to become more valuable when those looks are even better in the near future.

DeMarcus Cousins will return for Friday's matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers, which will help shore up one of the team's few weaknesses. The Warriors were just 29th in the league in points in the paint per game and a middling 15th in opposing points in the paint per game entering play, per NBA.com, but will be adding an All-Star big man down the stretch.

Last season, Cousins shot 51.8 percent of his field-goal attempts inside 10 feet and held opponents to 3.9 percent worse shooting than their normal averages within 10 feet, per NBA.com. Opponents will no longer be able to simply disregard the paint when playing the Warriors, which will force some of the defenders who were shaded toward Curry closer toward the basket.

That, along with the pick-and-rolls Curry can operate with the formidable Cousins, will lead to clearer looks for No. 30 and even more efficient scoring.

The Warriors will essentially have an All-Star team on the floor with Curry, Thompson, Durant, Cousins and Green, and defenses will be unable to focus on just one or two of the playmakers. Curry is already playing at an MVP level, but he's about to turn things up another notch.

          

Mavs' Playoff Hopes Rest on Luka Continuing to Assert Himself as Volume Scorer

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If there is a such thing as a moral victory in the NBA, it was the Mavericks' effort in Sunday's contest.

They were leading in the final two minutes against the back-to-back champions and received an impressive performance from their go-to option. Doncic poured in 26 or more points for the fourth straight time and continued to assert himself more as a scorer like he did during the last two victories.

The rookie didn't shoot more than 20 field-goal attempts a single time in October, November or December but already has two games of 23 attempts in January.

He is growing more comfortable against NBA defenses and looking for his shot more while also using his ability to read the defense and make the right pass to free up his teammates. Doncic is the only player on the Mavericks averaging 20.0 or more points, and Barnes (18.1 entering play) is the only other one posting more than 13.4 a night.

Doncic surely recognizes he is the one player on the roster who can take over games after playing a half-season with this roster and has responded accordingly with a more aggressive approach.

Dallas was 2.5 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers in the race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference entering play, but it doesn't have the surrounding talent to routinely compete with the likes of the Warriors and others in the daunting conference unless Doncic goes into takeover mode for stretches.

He did at times against the Warriors, keeping the home team competitive throughout against the league's stiffest test, and will need to continue looking for his shot as a scorer if the Mavericks are going to climb back into the playoff chase.

           

What's Next?

The Warriors are at the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, and the Mavericks host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

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