The Golden State Warriors played host to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, and after the Mavs’ stunning Game 7 dominance against the Suns to knock the reigning West champs out, there was plenty of buzz about what they could do in this series.
However, all that optimism was quickly reminded of the reality facing them in the conference finals, as the Warriors jumped out to an quick 10-point advantage after the first quarter, led by stifling defense that held the Mavs to just 18 points in the opening frame. Draymond Green provided the exclamation point to end the quarter with a block in the corner, but the entire team put the clamps on Dallas, as Green, Kevon Looney, and Andrew Wiggins, tasked with being Luka Doncic’s primary defender, all provided terrific efforts.
On the offensive end, it was a likewise slow start from Golden State, but Jordan Poole came off the bench and gave the Warriors a spark, as he’s done all season, providing efficient scoring and individual creation against a Mavs defense that has been stifling through two rounds.
That boost was needed, as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson got off to ice cold starts offensively, but they were picked up by the “others” like Poole and Andrew Wiggins who scored 15 first half points to lead the Warriors.
Doncic would keep Dallas attached with 18 points to lead all scorers at the break, as he put forth his usual strong first half effort, including back-to-back threes in the second quarter to keep the Warriors from breaking the game wide open.
Still, despite the best efforts of Doncic, the Warriors were able to put together a little run to close the quarter and took a nine-point edge into the halftime break. The third quarter saw the Warriors runaway and hide from the Mavs, opening with a 10-2 run and pushing their lead out to 19 going into the fourth quarter as Curry and Poole got it going.
The avalanche continued in the fourth quarter, as the Warriors would push their lead to as many as 30 as the Mavs offense simply could never get out of first gear, while Poole, Curry, and the Warriors found their stride.
Eventually, the benches were emptied and the Warriors cruised to a 112-87 win, asserting their dominance early in the series. Neither team shot the ball particularly well from three, but the lack of alternative shot creation for the Mavs when nothing was falling was a telling sign that their only chance in the series is going to be if their three balls are falling.
Dallas hoisted 48 three-point attempts in the game and hit only 11 (that is a 23.4 percent rate), only attempting 38 shots from inside the arc. On the other side, the Warriors were just 10-of-29 from three (34.5 percent), but they dominated inside the arc, going 36-of-53 on two-point attempts as they punished the Mavs small lineup and took advantage of opportunities to get out and run in transition off of all of Dallas’ misses. It feels like those Warriors-Rockets series when Houston would put up 40-50 threes and hoped the shooting variance would win them four out of seven, but the problem is, long misses give Golden State opportunities to get out and run, negating Dallas’ strong improvement as a halfcourt defense.
Curry finished as the leading scorer on the night with 21 points, with Poole and Wiggins close behind at 19 each, as seven Warriors players reached double figures in the game. Doncic had just two second half points as he finished with 20 and there wasn’t a single Mav in the main rotation who shot over 50 percent on the night. Adjustments are needed from Dallas in Game 2, namely “make threes,” but also generating better shots and being able to slow Warriors runs with shots at the rim when their threes aren’t falling would go a long way in avoiding the long scoring droughts that let Golden State pile on and get the Chase Center rocking.