San Francisco – The Kevon Looney Warriors didn’t waste any time flipping the Switch and the Mavericks in the process. So here are five notes from Game 2 and how the Warriors pulled off two NBA Finals wins.
1. Kevin was working
Let’s give the guy the applause he deserves. Kevin Looney was, from start to finish, the most valuable player on earth for the Warriors. That’s when you factor in his inner buckets, rebounds, his role in motivating a comeback with a big third quarter, and how he took on the slack when Draymond Green got into a nasty (and eventually spoiled) problem. Were those chants really the best he heard in the second half? It certainly was.
And let’s take it one step further: Looney has a solid post-season streak, which includes a 22-game rebound in the Memphis series. But back to Friday’s outstanding performance with 21 points and 12 rebounds: Looney was always in a position to get feed from his teammates and make 10 of 14 shots. To say this was Looney’s most impressive offensive output would be an understatement. He’s scored 4.7 in the ppg in the NBA and hasn’t topped 20 in a game since his freshman year at UCLA.
All that said… the Mavericks, as their biggest weakness is, offer little or nothing in terms of resisting the big man. They made him look like Kevin Olajuwon. Dwight Powell’s starting position was goalless and only witnessed seven minutes. And on a per-minute basis, the Maxi Clipper was actually worse, with one bounce (no typo) in 33 minutes (and only three points). Clipper at one point reached Looney and caught him trying to throw the ball, which probably shocked Looney more than anything, since someone would turn it against him. It was, um, unstoppable.
“He found a way to influence gaming,” said Steve Curry. “He has composure, experience and knowledge.”
Looney helped the warriors get 62 points in paint. He is also the first Center Warriors to make a 20-10 playoff since Robert Parrish in 1977. This says a lot about the Warriors centers in the past. But a little bit about Kevon, too, at least in this game, tonight. It doesn’t matter that he probably won’t score 20 again in this series, or ever again. When they need it, supply it to them.
“I am so grateful to be a part of this team and now have a real opportunity to make a difference and help this team win,” he said.
2. The Mavs Made 3s, Even They Didn’t
It happened suddenly and then quickly. We’re talking about the Mavs’ hot and then cold relationship with the long shot. Coach Jason Kidd predicted that a team that was 11-for-48 in Game 1 would eventually achieve those open looks, and that was the case in Game 2. Mavs starters were 14-for-18 from deep in the first half, no further research to see why the Mavericks He leads by 19 points.
But that third quarter was downright ugly. Dallas went 2 for 13, and when those shots didn’t fall out, Dallas panicked and forgot how to explore other ways to score.
As Kidd said, “We have to understand, when we shoot three of four (three) and miss, you have to go to the edge and put the ball in the paint, and we have to get to the free throw line. When you go 2 against 13 and count on 3, you can die by her.” We died in the third quarter.”
One of the reasons The Warriors win is that Golden State doesn’t always rely on 3s. The Warriors got to the edge and were balanced out by having the paint lost in Dallas.
You might be wondering if the Mavericks have this type of person. Outside of Doncic, Jalen Bronson and Spencer Dinwiddy (and Dinwiddy was notably moderate on Friday), Dallas lacks creators. He appeared in Game 2.
3. The Warriors’ guards were too fast for Dallas
This was shown consistently on Friday and in the first match as well. Curry attacks the edge as much as he shoots 3s. Jordan Paul also takes his man off the dribble. They combined for 55 points in Game 2 and destroyed Dallas during the second half stampede.
This comes as a bit of a surprise and diversion from the last round, when the Mavs caught Devin Booker checking out the last two games of that series and frustrated Chris Paul for nearly the entire series. If the Mavs don’t limit these two, they’re not playing the Warriors at the moment.
And if the Mavericks have any determination to win four of five games and claim that series, they will need to reclaim the same formula that worked against the Phoenix. Because with the exception of the first quarter of Game 1, Curry is affected, and when Paul comes off the bench, there is no drop in quality or impact.
They combined for 22 and shot 6 for 7 in the fourth quarter when the Warriors pulled out for good. In that sense, Curry and Paul were strong lockouts, not letting the Mavs get back into the mix.
The biggest positive about this scenario, of course, is how high Paul’s confidence remains. These are the first meaningful games of his brief NBA career. Remember, in February of last year he was in the G League. Since taking on a bigger role while Klay Thompson recovered from injuries, Paul has not been afraid of the moment or the challenge.
“When Steve gets off the ground the defense tends to focus on me a little bit so it’s just about continuing to be aggressive, not just trying to play for my teammates but looking for more shots to keep the rhythm,” he said.
The longer he holds this stance and bucket count, the Warriors won’t have to sweat over Klay Thompson’s paradox. Poole might be the best choice for a late game.
4. Luca is back in trouble
Remember that defense thrown by the warriors in Game 1? It was not effective this time. Doncic did what he wanted: go to seclusion, draw bugs, smash defense, get buckets.
“It’s a tough job,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “Doncic is a great player. Against a good person, you are just trying to limit the easy things.”
You can wonder if it is as harmful as the 42 points might suggest; Doncic was in the 12th minute of the night and a slew of his points came after Golden State took the lead well halfway through the fourth.
Still: 42 is 42. And he did so with a shoulder that felt a little uncomfortable. Doncic remains the most important player on Earth, which means that, more than anyone else, he will dictate how this series goes. When he started strong, getting an 18 in the first quarter, the Mavericks were in complete control, because Golden State’s defense had to respect Luca leaving his teammates open.
What is discouraging Dallas, apart from the third quarter, is how the Mavs could lose despite 73 points from Doncic and Bronson. And 117 points should be enough to win.
“I think we were okay offensively,” Doncic said. “The defensive end we have to improve a lot.”
5. The warriors were here, they did it
The experience factor is in Golden State’s favour, largely due to the championship pedigrees of Curry, Green and Thompson. Some of that experience is reflected in their dominance at home, where they are now 8-0 in the playoffs. Simple math suggests that if this streak continues, the Warriors will not only win the Western Conference Finals by staying undefeated at home, but they will also win the championship if Miami doesn’t come out of the East.
Of course, it is not so simple. The Warriors will certainly see an unfriendly atmosphere in Dallas for the next two games.
“We’ve seen in the past two weeks what Dallas can do,” Kerr said. “They lost 2-0 to Phoenix and came back and won seven. Dallas is a really tough environment, a big stadium.”
However, the Warriors present the Mavericks with a difficult task: trying to beat a more efficient team in the second series in a row. That might be too much to ask for the Dallas team that is in the conference finals for the first time with Doncic.
For the Mavericks, holding the court in their turf will require doing the treble, dominating Doncic and rediscovering the Mavericks’ art of playing defense. In the absence of that, perhaps the Warriors would bring a lot: Carrie, Paul, Draymond, Thompson … and now Looney?
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