SAN FRANCISCO — Coach Jason Kidd blamed the Dallas Mavericks‘ one-dimensional offensive approach for blowing a 19-point lead in Friday’s 126-117 loss to the Golden State Warriors, criticizing his team for relying too heavily 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 3s made during 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 on 3s, as a major problem.
“When you go 2-for-13 and you rely 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 by shooting that many 3s and coming up with only two.”
The Mavs made it to the Western Conference finals in large part due to their prolific 3-point shooting. They have thrived with superstar guard Luka Doncic orchestrating a five-out offensive attack, with catch-and-shoot reserve Maxi Kleber playing significantly more minutes than starter Dwight Powell at center throughout the postseason. Dallas leads the league in 3-pointers made (15.6 per game) and attempted (41.1) during these playoffs, shooting 37.9% from beyond the arc.
In their Game 1 blowout loss to the Warriors, the Mavs went 11-of-48 from 3-point range but Kidd encouraged his team that night to continue taking open looks. The Mavs built their big lead at the Chase Center on Friday night with scorching shooting, as they were 15-of-27 from 3-point range in the first half. Then the well went dry in the third quarter, when the Warriors outscored the Mavs by a 25-13 margin.
“I mean, we were getting great looks,” said Mavs guard Jalen Brunson, who scored 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range. “When we’re open, we’re going to shoot. We have a lot of guys capable of making shots, knocking shots down. So I think as long as we’re open and shooting the correct shots, making the extra pass, doing the things that we do, we have confidence in everybody, I have confidence in everybody to knock it down.”
But Kidd, who opted not to call a timeout as the Warriors made their run in the third quarter, 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 attempted only four free throws despite being in the bonus for the final six minutes.
“If you make [3s], that’s great, but you just have to understand, if you miss four in a row, you can’t take the fifth,” Kidd said. “You’ve got to make it. That just puts too much stress on yourself and on your team because, if you’re not getting stops on the other end, it turns into a blowout.”
The Warriors actually still trailed 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 offense, and we play no defense when we can’t score,” Kidd said. “That’s something that we have to get better at this time of the year.”
Golden State, which had six scorers in double figures led by Stephen Curry‘s 32 points, dominated Dallas in paint 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 on 3s.
It was the seventh 40-point playoff performance of the 23-year-old’s career, matching 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 couple of losses to the Phoenix Suns in the previous series, thought the Mavs made a mistake by not driving more often.
“We weren’t attacking the paint that much,” Doncic. “But we got 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 still attack the paint. So I think we’ve got to rely less on the 3.”