SAN FRANCISCO — Coach Jason Kidd blamed the Dallas Mavericks’ one-dimensional offensive approach for taking a 19-point lead in Friday’s 126-117 loss to the Golden State Warriors, criticizing his team for being too lean on the 3-point shot during Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Mavs made 21 of 45 3-point attempts in the game, matching the third-most 3-pointers in a playoff loss in NBA history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. But Kidd specifically cited Dallas’ shot selection in the third quarter, when the Mavs were held to 13 points and went 2 of 13 of 3, as a major problem.
“When you go 2 for 13 and count on the 3, you can die by the 3,” Kidd said after the Warriors took a 2-0 series lead. “And we died in the third quarter shooting as many 3s and only making two.”
The Mavs reached the Western Conference Finals largely thanks to their prolific 3-point shooting. They thrived with superstar guard Luka Doncic orchestrating a five-out offensive offense, with catch-and-shoot reserve Maxi Kleber playing far more minutes than starter Dwight Powell at center throughout the playoffs. Dallas leads the league in 3 points made (15.6 per game) and attempted (41.1) in these playoffs, shooting 37.9 percent from beyond the arc.
In their blowout Game 1 loss to the Warriors, the Mavs went 11 of 48 to 3-pointers, but Kidd encouraged his team that night to keep watching openly. The Mavs built their big lead at Chase Center Friday night with scorching shooting as they were 15 of 27 from 3-point range in the first half. Then the well dried up in the third quarter, when the Warriors outscored the Mavs by a 25-13 margin.
“I mean, we looked great,” said Mavs guard Jalen Brunson, who scored 31 points on 11 of 19 shots, including 5 of 7 from 3-pointers. “When we’re open, we’re going to shoot. We’ve got a lot of guys who can make shots, knock down shots. So I think as long as we’re open and we’re shooting the right shots, making the extra pass, making the things we do, we trust everybody, I trust everybody to overthrow it.”
But Kidd, who opted not to call a timeout as the Warriors made their third-quarter run, felt the Mavs needed to be more aggressive off the dribble when their jumpers stopped falling. Dallas was 3 of 6 on 2-point attempts in the third quarter, and the Mavs only attempted four free throws while in the bonus for the final six minutes.
“If you do [3s], that’s great, but you just have to understand that if you miss four in a row, you can’t take the fifth,” Kidd said. “You have to make it happen. It puts too much stress on yourself and your team because, if you don’t get saves on the other end, it turns into a blowout.”
The Warriors were still trailing by two points at the end of the third quarter. Golden State didn’t take its first lead of the game until reserve forward Otto Porter Jr.’s 3-pointer on the opening possession of the fourth quarter. The dam broke for the Dallas defense in the fourth, when the Warriors scored 43 points on 15 of 19 shooting.
“We play defense when we play attack, and we don’t play defense when we can’t score,” Kidd said. “It’s something we need to improve at this time of year.”
Golden State, which had six double-digit scorers led by Stephen Curry’s 32 points, outscored Dallas by scoring by a 62-30 margin. Doncic finished with 42 points and eight assists, going 12 of 23 from the floor and 5 of 10 over 3 seconds.
It was the 23-year-old’s seventh career 40-point playoff performance, tying Dirk Nowitzki for the most in franchise history. But the Mavs are only 2-5 when Doncic scores 40 or more.
Doncic, as he did after a few losses to the Phoenix Suns in the previous series, thought the Mavs had made a mistake by not driving more often.
“We weren’t attacking the paint so much,” said Doncic. “But we have to attack the paint more, like they did. They attacked the paint a lot. They have two of the best shooters in the world, and they always attack the paint. So I think we have to rely less on the 3 .”