DALLAS (AP) — Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors have won nine straight games in the Western Conference Finals.
They can make an even 10, knock out Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks and return to the NBA Finals after a three-year absence with a Game 4 win at Dallas on Tuesday night.
“I’m not going to move fast,” Curry said after a 109-100 win in Game 3 for a 3-0 series lead. “We can play better, but we are finding ways to win games. There is no expectation other than the challenge ahead of us, and the challenge now is to close a series against a very good team to come back to an opportunity to win the final.”
The Warriors haven’t lost in the Western Finals since overcoming a 3-2 deficit against Houston in 2018, when they won the last of their three titles in four years by defeating Cleveland in the Western Finals. the NBA. Golden State swept Portland for a fifth straight trip to the Finals in 2019 before losing in six games to Toronto.
The Mavericks are playing beyond the first round for the first time since first-year coach Jason Kidd was point guard for the Dirk Nowitzki-led team that won the title in 2011.
Dallas lost 2-0 to top-seeded Phoenix in the Western semifinals before winning twice as the home team won the first six games. The Mavs stunned the Suns with a 33-point victory in Game 7 at Phoenix, giving Doncic a year ahead of Nowitzki’s schedule to reach his first conference final.
Golden State recovered from 19 points to win Game 2 at home before erasing a nine-point deficit in the final four minutes of the first half of Game 3 – and ending any hopes of Dallas repeating their feat in Phoenix.
Instead of winning four out of five games, the Mavericks need to win the last four games of the series. No NBA team has done that.
Doncic scored 21 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter, but a desperate rally in Dallas never gained traction. The young superstar masked a lackluster first half by hitting a 32-footer at the first quarter buzzer.
“I think the first two quarters I played very poorly. It’s on me,” Doncic said after the Mavs fell to 2-6 in three playoff years when their All-Star scored at least 40. “But I’m still learning. I think after this season is over, whatever we are, I think we’re going to look back and learn a lot. I’m 23, man. I’m still learning a lot.
Doncic also learned what it’s like to be on the wrong side of a moment that will live forever in the highlights.
The three-time All-Star who has a habit of sending defenders stumbling with crossover and backward moves was posterized on a dunk by Andrew Wiggins.
Yes, the same Wiggins was criticized by some after being picked as an All-Star starter in his first appearance this year. He got the nod for Doncic, who started the season poorly by his standards due to weight and conditioning issues.
It wasn’t Wiggins’ only dunk on his way to a career-high 27 points in the playoffs, and he had another of his six offensive rebounds, just one shy of Dallas as a team.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2014 was also one of Doncic’s key defenders in a multi-faceted program that limited the triple-double leader Dallas to five assists per game – three below his average in the playoffs.
“He’s a fantastic player both ways,” coach Steve Kerr said. “You don’t win the playoffs without guys like Wiggs. We’re basically mirroring Doncic’s minutes so Wiggs can stay on top of him and he’s another guy like Steph who never seems to get tired. He’s in incredible shape .”
The Mavericks are in bad shape in this series as they were outscored on average 62-47 in the second half. Part of the reason is the inconsistency of Doncic’s supporting cast.
In Game 3, Spencer Dinwiddie scored 26 of Dallas’ 28 bench points after the Mavs’ reserves were outscored 36-13 in Game 2. But leading 3-point specialists Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber and Reggie Bullock combined for just nine points – all from Finney-Smith after Kleber and Bullock missed all 12 of their 3s and all 15 of their shots overall.
Forgive the Mavs if they seemed a bit defeated, knowing the history of 3-0 deficits.
“When you’re in a battle, you don’t think about the big picture,” Kidd said. “But looking back on this summer, whenever it starts, we’ll understand what we’ve done and how we can improve. And that’s the blessing of it all, we really believe we belong here.”
For now, the Mavs have to believe they can make it last.