Mavericks beat Warriors to avoid sweep on emotional day

DALLAS — Through the first three games of the Western Conference finals, the Warriors were winning the defensive battle against the Mavericks. Through a combination of looks, which included a coverage-and-recovery man scheme, a little bit of switching, some box-and-one, and a good amount of zone, Golden State held Dallas to a 106.3 offensive rating from Games 1 to 3, an elite brand. Let Mavs coach Jason Kidd turn those schemes into something positive:

“The biggest compliment we’ve received is that they have to play in the zone because they can’t defend us 1v1.”

Dallas was finally able to take advantage of the Warriors on Tuesday, recording its first win of the series as it returns to the Bay with the Dubs still up 3-1. The Mavs’ 119-109 victory in Game 4 was due to the force of their outside shooting, when their 3-pointers finally began to pour like rain through the leaky roof of the Dallas arena. After shooting just 32.6% from 3-point range in the first three games, the Mavs were 20-for-43 on Tuesday night, shooting 46.5%. For an example of how stark the turnaround was, in Game 3, Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith combined to shoot 2-for-12 from deep. In Game 4, they shot 10 of 17.

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As Finney-Smith said after the game: “If we were going to lose today, I wanted to go out and shoot.”

3-pointers have been a hallmark of Dallas’ playoff run. The attention paid to Luka Dončić often creates an outward appearance for the Mavs’ supporting cast. In general, the Warriors have been reluctant to give Luka the changes he wants this series, and that reluctance, plus the addition of zone looks, can put the defense in constant rotations. In their postseason wins, the Mavs are shooting 40.8% on 42 3-pointers per game. In their losses they shoot just 33.7% on 40.8 attempts per game. Of all the teams that made the playoffs, Dallas has the best 3-point winning percentage, as well as the most attempts per game.

After the game, Steve Kerr lamented his team’s performance, saying they weren’t alert and in tune defensively. The Mavs’ offense, thanks to Luka, demands constant focus, not unlike the Warriors’ relentless movement. Golden State has been mixing up so much coverage that for much of the game, assistant coach Mike Brown is off the bench yelling assignments as Dallas gets the ball up the court. Even momentary lapses in communication can lead to an easy 3-pointer for the Mavericks.

At the other end of the floor, Golden State looked lethargic. The Warriors couldn’t mount much offense until the fourth quarter. The Dubs trailed as many as 29 points in the second half, until a bench drive cut the lead to just eight points in the fourth quarter. The final score made the game seem more competitive than it was. The Mavs had clearly taken their foot off the gas, and when Golden State’s starters returned with just minutes left, they never seriously threatened to make things interesting.

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Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) dribbles the ball against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry.

Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

Of course, what is more important, the game took place only a few hours after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, just over 350 miles from the arena. Both coaches spoke about the tragedy before the game. Kidd read a prepared statement and declined to answer a basketball question, saying he couldn’t under the circumstances, his voice soft as he tried to collect his thoughts. After Kidd, Kerr delivered an impassioned speech that lasted nearly three minutes. He took no questions and pounded the table as he called on Congress to do more to combat gun violence.

“I’m tired. I’m so tired of coming up here and offering condolences to the devastated families out there. I’m so tired of excuses. I’m tired of moments of silence. Enough,” Kerr said, adding: “All of you, To senators who refuse to do anything about violence in school and grocery store shootings, I ask, ‘Are you going to put your own desire for power before the lives of our children and our seniors and our parishioners?’ Because that’s what it looks like.”

Kerr, his emotion palpable, called the lack of action “pathetic” before saying, “I’ve had enough” and quickly walked out of his news conference.

Stephen Curry said after the game that he appreciated Kerr’s leadership, adding that the shot “was on everyone’s mind going into the game.” He shared Kerr’s speech on his Twitter account before the announcement, writing, “Watch this as much as you watch the game tonight.”

While both teams performed professionally, it was hard for Game 4 not to feel especially trivial in light of the horrific event. Perhaps the most shocking thing to happen on the court Tuesday came almost an hour after the game ended, with no one left in the stands: Draymond Green, all smiles as he walked with his family through the nearly empty gym, his children in each side.

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