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The Golden State Warriors are four years removed from their last NBA title and they look as unbeatable as ever.
As the Warriors pulled off a 19-point comeback over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of their Western Conference Finals series, a couple of things became very clear — the Mavericks are not going to beat the Warriors in this series and Golden State is the clear favorite to win the 2022 NBA Finals.
The Warriors handed the Mavericks a disheartening 126-117 loss despite Luka Doncic’s 42-point, five-rebound, eight-assist performance. While one could have argued the Mavericks lost Game 1 due to Doncic’s rough output — 20 points and seven turnovers on 6-of-18 shooting from the field — there was no such argument here.
Golden State simply defeated Dallas because they have multiple players who can contribute on the offensive side of the ball. Meanwhile, the Mavericks are forced to overly rely on a one-man show led by Doncic and a cast of role players who simply can’t match up to the Warriors’ experienced supporting cast.
In a game in which Doncic gave the Warriors his best shot on the road, it still wasn’t enough as six different Golden State players scored in double figures. The most amazing stat of them all was the career-high 21 points contributed by Kevon Looney, who hadn’t scored that many points in a single game since his freshman season at UCLA back in 2014-15.
Despite the Mavericks outdoing the Warriors at their own game — 21 three-pointers in comparison to the home team’s 14 treys — Golden State adjusted and managed to use Dallas’ over-reliance on the long ball to punish them in the paint.
The Warriors — paced by Looney’s career night — converted 14-of-16 shots at the rim (87.5%), finishing with 62 points in the paint. Meanwhile, the Mavericks scored just 30 points in the paint while shooting 45 treys in comparison to the Warriors’ 28 three-point attempts.
Game 2 followed a troubling performance by the Mavericks in Game 1 in which they made just 11-of-48 (22.9%) three-point attempts. While the Warriors weren’t much better (1o-of-29 from beyond the arc, 34.4%), they showed the ability to adjust when the shots were not falling.
The Mavericks have yet to show they can do that.
Head coach Jason Kidd voiced his displeasure regarding the Mavericks’ shot selection following their Game 1 loss. He didn’t hold back following Dallas’ similar decision to overly rely on the three-ball in Game 2.
“When you go 2-for-13 and you rely on the 3, you can die by the 3,” Kidd said after Game 2. “And we died in the third quarter by shooting that many 3s and coming up with only two.”
Kidd continued to hammer on his team’s performance, saying the Mavericks play defense when they play offense, but don’t play defense when the shots aren’t falling.
“We play defense when we play offense, and we play no defense when we can’t score,” Kidd said. “That’s something that we have to get better at this time of the year.”
In an ironic twist, the Warriors managed to defeat the Mavericks with the exact opposite of the three-point revolution they started nearly a decade prior — dominance in the paint.
Outside of the fact that the Warriors seemed to score points just as easily as the Mavericks had at bricking shots, Golden State’s advantage in experience became very obvious in this one.
“There’s a reason that our team has won championships, and it’s that we’ve got players who are stars and players who are fearless and capable of playing and performing under pressure,” head coach Kerr said after the game. “But Steph in particular, the guy is one of the great players of all time. This is what the greats do.”
Steph Curry was the leading man — as he’s always been — in this one, scoring 32 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing five assists. He was supported by Jordan Poole’s 23 points off of the bench, Andrew Wiggins’ 16 points and Klay Thompson’s 15-point contribution.
This was the Warriors’ 12th playoff comeback win when trailing by at least 15 points in the Kerr era. No other teams have as many such comebacks in the past 25 seasons.
The Warriors may have been out of the limelight over the past two seasons as injuries decimated the squad. However, with Thompson finally back in the fold after a three-year hiatus and now that young players such as Poole and Looney have developed into quality role players, Golden State appears unstoppable.
As the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat brutalize one another in a series that could very well go seven games, the Warriors could very well finish their own series in a sweep.
Simply put, there isn’t a single team remaining in the playoffs that has as many offensive weapons — Curry, Thompson, Poole and Wiggins — capable of taking over a game. Perhaps most importantly, there isn’t a single team remaining in the postseason that has the playoff pedigree that the Warriors have.
This is a team that won three titles and made five consecutive Finals appearances between 2015 and 2019. And now they’re back again.
“For us, the experience, just the chemistry — obviously this group is different — but we have that attitude, the spirit that we feel like we’re never out of it,” Curry said after the Warriors’ comeback victory. “That belief then turns into execution in the game, and you can feel the momentum. It’s more just focused on what we do. When we have those opportunities to stick the dagger or come up with three stops in a row, those are the times where we feel the good energy going our way.”
That confidence and experience is what is making this second incarnation of the Warriors look eerily similar to the one we saw at the end of the previous decade.
They’re back, folks.