On Tuesday, the Dallas Mavericks headed into Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals facing a sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.
Instead of bowing out and feeling good about upsetting the Phoenix Suns in the previous round, the Mavericks came out swinging, building a big lead in the second quarter and taking a 62-47 lead into halftime.
Golden State’s second-stringers made a rally in the fourth quarter, cutting the Mavs’ lead to eight, but they held on for a 119-109 win.
Dallas will likely still lose this series, but it may have found the beginnings of a formula of how to win with the group it currently has around superstar Luka Doncic.
More Guys Stepped Up For Dallas
Doncic, as usual, led the way, and although he shot just 10-of-26 from the field, he had 30 points, 14 rebounds, nine rebounds, two steals, and two blocked shots.
Most 30-point playoff games before turning 24:
21 — LeBron James
17 — Kevin Durant
17 — Kobe Bryant
17 — Luka Doncic pic.twitter.com/6sncy8OMyc
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 25, 2022
When Dallas has lost in these playoffs, he has, with a few exceptions, been a one-man gang.
But on Tuesday, he got a good amount of help.
Guard Jalen Brunson, who has blossomed nicely this spring, had 15 points, five rebounds, and five assists.
But he was just the fourth-leading scorer for Dallas.
Its second-leading scorer was Dorian Finney-Smith, who poured in 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting overall and 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
During the regular season, he was not exactly a big-time scorer, as he averaged only 11.0 points a game, and coming into Tuesday’s contest he was averaging just 10.9 points per game in the playoffs.
Reggie Bullock, who couldn’t buy a basket in Game 3, made 6-of-10 shots, all of them 3-pointers, in Game 4.
The Mavs had 30 assists on their 41 made field goals after only managing 18 assists in Game 3.
A Tactical Adjustment Helped
During the regular season, the Mavericks were rated dead-last in pace, and they ranked just 28th in fast-break points.
Granted, they don’t have the personnel to be a running team, but in Game 4, they played at a somewhat faster pace.
Dallas ended up with 10 fast-break points on Tuesday, which is still a very low number, but its faster pace at least allowed it to get into its offensive sets sooner.
When the Mavs play at their customary very slow pace, they are often reduced to watching Doncic go one-on-one with his defender at the top of the floor, with the shot clock running down.
But when they play with pace, it empowers guys such as Brunson, Finney-Smith, and Spencer Dinwiddie to get better looks.
A faster pace also allows the Mavs to get more good looks in the paint and rely less on taking massive amounts of 3-point shots.
On Tuesday, they shot 50.0 percent from the floor and 46.5 percent from downtown, compared to 40.0 and 28.9 percent, respectively, in Game 3.
A Game 5 Win Could Change The Complexion Of This Series
If the Mavs somehow manage to take Game 5 in San Francisco, there could be some tinges of anxiety on the Warriors’ side.
Game 6 would then be back in Dallas, and with the momentum on their side, the Mavs could very well win that contest, which would then make Game 7 a little bit of a crapshoot.
Very bold strategy by the Mavs, who are undefeated in elimination games this postseason, to put themselves in position to only have elimination games the rest of this series.
— Playoff Dalton (@dalton_trigg) May 25, 2022
Even if or when they lose this series, the Mavs can use it as a learning experience moving forward.