DALLAS – You see it when Jason Kidd has to turn to Maxi Kleber, knowing that every minute the score doesn’t move away from his Mavericks is a win.
You hear it as the oversized speakers in the rims of the American Airlines Center confirm what’s on the stat sheet, the sonic noises becoming more and more painful as the game progresses.
It’s evident when Luka Doncic needs to be a star Super Mario for his team to have a chance, and the second the power fades he’s worn down, tired and turns to the referees for refuge.
The Dallas Mavericks went further than they expected, which is an equal accusation from the Phoenix Suns as it’s praise from Kidd’s team. But they’re not ready for this stage, not against these Golden State Warriors.
And by the time they are, many key elements will probably no longer be there or as important.
The Warriors moved one game closer to the NBA Finals with a 109-100 win in Game 3 on Sunday night.
Consider this: The Warriors’ fifth best player, and some nights sixth or seventh, would be Doncic’s No. 1 running mate in this series – and he’s a former No. 1 overall pick who doesn’t have to play as a franchise savior to be effective.
All Andrew Wiggins has to do is guard Doncic – and dunk him on occasion. He’s every bit as talented as his pedigree suggests, even though his career hasn’t quite turned out that way.
And he’s a player the Warriors don’t need every night. His playoff consistency, 27 with 11 rebounds that night, takes the Warriors to another level. One that doesn’t just play them in June, but takes on the Miami-Boston slugfest winner and is comfortable with him against Jayson Tatum or Jimmy Butler.
“Wiggins is a talented player, he’s an All-Star,” Kidd said. “And when you look at what they’re asking him to do, high level.”
The Warriors are a team full of, pardon the expression, grown men. Hardened and even emboldened by championship experience. The Mavericks are in their infancy, by comparison.
“And that was a big lesson that we learned,” Kidd said. ” This is not the end. It was just the beginning, and I said it in the Phoenix series, if you remember. You have good memories.
The Warriors have vivid memories of the team they saw in Game 2, the one that played a damn good game for a road team but came away deflated. The focus has been on winning this game, removing any remaining confidence and capitalizing on any doubt that has crept in over the past 48 hours.
“You can basically put a team out tonight,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green, who recovered a technical but sparked a game-breaking third-quarter run shortly after. “We came out with a certain level of intensity, the level of focus it takes to come out on the road and steal one. We kind of wanted to go all-in on this one for sure.
It was the 26th straight playoff series with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Green where the Warriors have won at least one road game, an NBA record. If the Mavericks win a game on the road this series, it means they will have avoided elimination two straight games and turned this series on its ear, bringing it back to Dallas for Game 6.
With Doncic anything is possible, but that’s like asking him to defend Wiggins at the rim – expecting it to only end in embarrassing and entertaining replays.
“It was impressive, I’m not going to lie,” said Doncic. “I saw the video again, I was like, Oh. It was quite amazing. I wish I had these bunnies.
Doncic’s greatness was on display throughout the postseason, his production putting him on those cute visual displays with basketball ghosts. It sparked a thought that he might be able to elevate the upstarts to an unlikely NBA Finals appearance in his fourth year, beating a championship-decorated team along the way.
But it’s not LeBron James in 2007, and that’s no small feat for Doncic. This team’s only decoration is their secondary antics, which have drawn the ire of the NBA’s league office with multiple fines.
His showmanship – a shimmy in Curry’s direction after a triple at the buzzer to end the first quarter – was more artistic and punchy than anything he had done on the night, and it was his third 40-point game. of the playoffs, all coming in losses.
He bears the burden of scoring, and one wonders how he’ll fare when there’s a talent that demands the ball at All-Star rate. Only Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie have the track to do their own thing, and everyone has to eat what Doncic hunts.
“I think there’s a combination, we just didn’t shoot the ball well,” Kidd said. “Look at the three guys scoring, it’s just not enough. Against the Warriors, you need guys to participate offensively, but we look good.
Doncic’s late-night shows mask flaws in his game that he will need to improve before he becomes Slovenian Harden: playing against teammates, playing through inevitable frustration and, of course, individual defence.
But watching Luka at every switch is the greatest shooter of all time, a top-five shooter of all time, a promising max player…and then the guy who made him a playoff poster for all the wrong reasons. , Wiggins.
It’s easy to see why Dallas is in love with Wiggins’ former teammate, a Chicago high-flyer named Zach LaVine who will be a free agent in July. A player with that athleticism, that individual excellence that puts stretch marks on defense would make you forget Doncic’s own stretch marks when he’s not playing defense.
Or a player circling the arena after the game, another potential summer target the Mavericks know well because he played for them several years ago, Suns center JaVale McGee.
The disparity is great and building a team has been going on for almost 10 years for the Warriors.
“For example, like Draymond. He’s a max player. He’s one of the greatest actors of all time,” Dinwiddie said. “But he’s not a traditional, stand-alone guy, is he?” Like, you’re not going to put it on the phone so that, hey, go get 30. Alright. They’ve got great team composition, great chemistry, they’re basically a dynasty.
The Mavericks have essentially gone as far as their talent will take them, and having players performing above their heads every other night for three weeks has caught up with them, with Reggie Bullock going 0 for 10 (seven missed triples) and Kleber taking and missing his five attempts.
Rattling went 13 for 45 on three, with well over half their shots from long range.
Changing their style to take under threes so late in the game seems pretty foolish to ask, considering it served them well in series wins against arguably the toughest opponents, Utah and Phoenix.
“We can attack the rim for sure. But we are built as we are built,” Dinwiddie said. “You get to the Western Conference Finals and you start missing shots, but you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
The baby is cold and the Warriors have just thrown another ruthless cold blanket over it – plans for June await and the Mavericks have work to do.