Entering the game, there is really only one way this is going to go (spoiler alert: Dallas will lose), and the Warriors coming off a 1-2 start doesn’t help. But that makes me reflect on an interesting conversation being had during and after the Finals this summer: do you enjoy watching the Warriors? Some people are turned off by the sheer dominance radiating out of the bay, and I agree that the games, and series as a whole, didn’t have the drama that a closer matchup could have.
Yet I still find watching the Warriors’ product almost intoxicating. The talent they have is obvious, but Kerr has installed in them a respect and persistence towards their craft that definitely shows. It would be easy to look at the roster and think hey, we don’t really need to run many sets, we can just score in transition and run some basic action for our stars when things slow down, and that team would look a lot like the Cavs. Yet the Warriors have maintained their commitment to running plays that involve the entire team, and the players have bought into trying to make the best play instead of taking a shot when the ball arrives. That helps keep everybody engaged, and keeps the bench from falling apart when stars sit (cough Oklahoma City cough), basically the things that have kept the Spurs winning 50+ games for two decades. There’s times (honestly, most of the time) where they could play “better”, but it wouldn’t be conducive to building team chemistry, and the result of that is meeting a team with Lebron, Kyrie, and Love in the Finals and absolutely destroying them. I loved watching that, seeing the game played with an almost unheard of level of skill and execution is an absolute joy.
- Dirk gets matched up on Curry in the key, can’t hit the shot. Sad face emoji.
- Klay hits his first shot, and coming back in transition on their next possession misses an open three. I hate to say it but I low key wanted to see it go in; Klay, when he erupts, is one of the most fun players to watch in the game.
- Dirk gets switched onto Steph, but DSJ takes Klay off the dribble from the perimeter. Even though Dirk isn’t producing from anywhere really, I can’t turn off my “Dirk has a mismatch!” radar (so maybe it is good that his teammates can).
- My philosophy on help defense is either commit, or just stay home. I hate seeing players shade towards the ball just enough to look like they’re helping, but not actually help, while also leaving their guy open. I say that to point this out: Dirk gets Curry in the post on the right block, but just as fast as the entry pass can get to Dirk, Draymond flies over from the weak side, and by the time Dirk has the ball he’s getting viciously double teamed. Amazing awareness and effort by Draymond.
- DSJ gets Zaza switched onto him at the top of the key. He’s going to iso Zaza, everybody on the floor knows that, but before that DSJ passes to Wes simply to receive the pass back. This is a subtle way to gain a little more advantage in the 1 on 1: it would allow more flexibility with the first dribble/step, but in this case it changes a pull-up three into a catch-and-shoot three, which is a better shot (and goes in).
- There’s a shot of DSJ on the bench after he sits, and he’s intently watching what is happening on the floor. Seems like he’s eager to learn, very noice.
- The game gets out of hand very quickly (understandable), but Barnes is trying to keep Dallas alive by taking the ball inside. I appreciate when Barnes is aggressive, he needs to eschew a lot of his pull ups for drives (granted, that strategy would be more viable if he wasn’t playing PF most of the time).
- The Warriors’ defensive rotations are immaculate; the help always comes from the player that would be the most difficult to find, and every defender knows exactly where they should go to recover if the ball keeps moving.
- One play where Golden State loads up the strong side to defend the Mavs, and the pass out finds DSJ on the weak side wing, with a player to his left in the corner. The lone weak side defender runs out to DSJ, but DSJ sends him away with a fake pass to the corner that leaves him wide open. The shot misses, but it is a great cerebral play by a rookie. I’m actually very impressed so far with DSJ’s court awareness, especially for a rookie, who usually don’t have that many points applied to their intelligence stat.
- DSJ also jumps a pass to Curry and gets a fast break layup. Curry tries to pay him back the next possession and also teach him a lesson about when to go under screens against him (pro tip: never), but misses the shot.
- Dirk gets Livingston posted up on the right block but airballs(!) the shot, a shot that used to be the good version of not touching the rim. Returning in transition, Dirk decides to stop to guard Livingston at the three point line instead of continuing to the basket and Dallas gives up a wide open layup. Three sad face emojis.
- Powell comes in and has a good run of effort plays. He gives the Mavs extra possessions, and finds ways to attack the soft spots in Golden State’s defense. And I keep thinking of this when he and JJ run a pick and roll.
- Golden State spends a decent amount of the second quarter in a lineup that has Durant playing with bench players. It’s still a better five man unit than Dallas can field, but there isn’t much ball movement, so things stall for a bit and Dallas starts to come back.
- DSJ makes a great effort play to get an extra possession, but then after some ball movement he receives a pass that should lead into a wide open three. Unfortunately, he hesitates, and drives right into his defender and turns it over. Cue benching. We’re now at the point where DSJ is overthinking. I like the kid, he’ll learn from it.
- After only shooting 40% in the first quarter I’m starting to have concerns that there are real issues with this team’s ability to score. I know Dallas doesn’t have the talent to compete with the top teams in the league, but the offense shouldn’t be what holds them back. It was nice to see some regression to the mean in the second quarter (or at least where I hope the mean should be).
- The vaunted “death lineup” comes out to end the half, and despite the obscene talent on the floor for Golden State, they seem content to just take jump shots and get back on defense to prevent transition opportunities. Combine that with a bad string of misses, and some good shot making by Dallas, and the Mavs flip the first quarter script and actually have the game close by half time. Loved the energy from both the team and the arena.
- DSJ gets the end-of-quarter isolation against Iggy, which must be overwhelming. I can’t imagine being in your second game as a player and having to go right at a hall of famer and defensive maestro, even in his twilight. DSJ’s layup barely rims off; that shot should start falling eventually, great sign.
- Revealing contrast: Klay plays great defense on Yogi, and blocks him under the rim. Then, Barnes plays great defense on Durant, who just pulls up and hits a shot over him. Effort always matters, except when it doesn’t.
- Noel gets a steal by trailing Klay in transition and getting a clean poke. Noel has rare agility for a big man, I think the team is still figuring out the best way to harness it. I’m reminded of Miami’s monster defense in the Big 3 era when Bosh would hedge hard on ball screens, but Dallas can’t afford to keep Noel away from the rim that much the way Miami could.
- A nice show of leadership by JJ as Noel sort of falls down on the baseline while trying to get a defensive rebound and JJ, with the ball, slows down so he can encourage Noel to get up and back in the play. He finds Wes for a three on that same play. Wes is having a great shooting game, and is a major reason why Dallas kept the game seemingly competitive for a stretch.
- JJ gets posted up by Klay on the right block and draws a charge. Klay joins Lebron in the “I’m an elite player than can’t post up JJ Barea” club.
- Very impressive work by Yogi to stay attached to Steph as he moves around the floor off ball. Nobody is stopping Steph, so the most you can ask is to make him work for it.
- Speaking of Steph, it is disappointing that we didn’t get a Curry vs. Curry matchup. Come back soon Seth.
- Another good sequence for Noel as he hits a baseline jumper (more of that please), and then gets another agile steal on a reach around.
- Dirk cuts, receives a pass, and gets fouled. He looks like he used up all the energy he allocated for the quarter in that one sequence but hey, two points is two points.
- KD hits a three over JJ exactly like his game winner over Lebron in the finals. JJ actually defends it perfectly, but who cares:
- Golden State runs out a lineup of Livingston/Klay/DK/Iggy/West. That’s a monstrous back court, especially going against JJ and Yogi, neither of which look like they belong on the same court as the guys they’re guarding. Livingston posts up Barea and effortlessly shoots over him, which causes Barea to take revenge by wildly missing a quick three. Poop emoji.
- Dallas can’t hang with the dubs in the second half and the bench units come out halfway through the fourth. DSJ gets couple of junk time minutes but sits shortly after the rest of the starters. I wouldn’t mind seeing him out there to finish the game (although sitting him is understandable if he’s still nursing that knee). Him and Klebur need more minutes together if they are going to become the next Nash/Dirk pairing, which is totally going to happen eventually.
- Jordan Bell takes over the internet with a self-alley-oop-and-1, which I think may be the first of its kind. Just a reminder that the Warriors procured the rights to his draft pick from Chicago with straight cash homey.
- Swaggy P doing Swaggy P things for those still watching as the clock runs out.
Lots of positive takeaways for Dallas from this game, despite the inevitability of the L. Hard to think they’ll be able to parlay that into a W against an unexpectedly dominant Grizzlies team, but we’ll see. I’d love to see Noel get the start against Gasol, I don’t know who else can be expected to slow him down.