The Western Conference Finals shifted to Dallas on Sunday night, as the Mavericks were desperate for a win to get into the series and make things interesting against the Warriors. After letting a 19-point lead evaporate in Game 2, all eyes were on Dallas to see if they could put together a complete performance against a Golden State team that simply does not offer much margin for error over 48 minutes.
Early on, it was the Warriors that landed the first punch, jumping out to a quick 12-point lead as they seemed to finally be tired of slow starts this postseason, piling in threes while the Mavs came out cold.
Dallas would hang in, as they started to turn up their defense and got a boost at the buzzer when Luka Doncic turned a missed Stephen Curry three into an answered prayer on the other end to cut the Warriors lead, somehow, to just three going to the second quarter.
It was there that the Mavs built on that positive momentum, taking a 9-point lead of their own, as Jalen Brunson got going and their defense tightened up considerably.
However, Golden State would close the second quarter with a flurry, with Stephen Curry reeling Dallas back in as they’d eventually take a one-point lead (with Curry getting a bit of a scare at the end of the half when he tripped over a waiter courtside).
Once again it was the Warriors who dominated the third quarter as they did in Game 2, as Draymond Green led the defense in putting the clamps on Dallas, who had just 21 in the quarter.
On the offensive end, the Warriors started to percolate, led by Curry who had 11 in the third quarter, headlined by this deep stepback in the final minute, as the Warriors pulled away against the ice cold Mavs to take a 10-point lead going to the fourth.
In the final period, the Mavs showed some signs of life, but, after struggling for much of the game, Klay Thompson showed up right on time to drill back-to-back threes — the first off yet another offensive board — to keep the Warriors ahead by double digits.
Luka came alive for Dallas in the fourth after a fairly quiet third quarter, keeping the Mavs attached despite Thompson and Poole both finally starting to find the bottom of the net from three.
However, the Mavs role players simply could not buy a three in Game 3, as Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock, and Davis Bertans combined to go 0-for-14 from deep. While Dallas continued to scuffle from beyond the arc, the Warriors continued to attack downhill, with Andrew Wiggins delivering the moment of the game with a monster dunk on Luka Doncic — that was initially and egregiously ruled an offensive foul and overturned after a Golden State challenge.
Wiggins was sensational for the Warriors all game, scoring 27 points and, maybe more importantly, pulling down 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive end as he and Kevon Looney continued to punish Dallas on the glass. The Warriors would never run away but the Mavs would also never make a real run, as Dallas once again had the same problem as Game 2 of being unable to get stops once their offense finally woke up after a third quarter lull.
The closest the Mavs got was within five with under a minute to go on a three by Doncic, but that was immediately answered by a Jordan Poole three in the corner to effectively put the game on ice, as Golden State would cruise from there to a 109-100 win.
Curry led the Warriors with 31 points, hitting 5-of-10 from beyond the arc, and 11 assists, with Wiggins stepping up to be the second-leading scorer as he was tremendous on both ends of the floor once again in this series, and Klay adding 19 with timely shots amid a rough shooting night. Kevon Looney had nine points and 12 rebounds, including four on the offensive glass, as he once again punished Dallas’ small-ball lineup as the Warriors advantage on the boards continues to win them games even as they struggle to knock down shots against the initial strong effort from the Mavs defense.
Dallas’ shooting woes and inability to clear the boards were once again, too much to overcome, as they shot 13-for-45 from three (28.9 percent). They continue to struggle to create consistent offense to avoid giving the Warriors the 8- and 10-point spurts that they use to bury teams (even when they themselves aren’t shooting great as a team). Luka had 40 points and 11 rebounds, while Spencer Dinwiddie gave them 26 points off the bench and Jalen Brunson had 20 points, but it was a three-man band as the rest of the team combined for 15 points. That’s not the recipe against a Warriors team that has as much floor balance as they do, and the result is a never-before-climbed hill facing Dallas.
With Golden State taking a 3-0 series lead, it is now a matter of when not if they advance to yet another NBA Finals, but Dallas will feel like they’ve had real chances at the last two but have failed to put together a full 48 minutes. Against this Warriors team, you can’t have long offensive droughts as Dallas has in the third quarters, because Golden State will steadily pull away on you, and then having to come back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter thins the margin for error down to nothing — and Dallas is yet to put forth a perfect close to a game on both ends.
The Mavs now will look to avoid a sweep on Tuesday night at home, and the Warriors have shown they’ll sleepwalk through a road closeout game this postseason, but it seems inevitable that Golden State gets a crack at ring number four.