Kevon Looney did it in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals — made the Mavericks pay for going small. Of course, Looney had help that Gobert and Ayton lacked: The gravity of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole to space the floor and force defenders to rotate off him, opening up room for Looney to operate around the rim.
Looney had 11 points in the third quarter when the Warriors staged their comeback and finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the game, plus he played a key defensive role in the second half.
Kevon Looney is the first Warriors center with a 20/10 playoff game since Robert Parish in 1977. pic.twitter.com/LOBecakSy0
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 21, 2022
Golden State came from 14 down at halftime — and overcame 42 points from Luka Doncic — to win Game 2 126-117. The Warriors now lead the series 2-0, with Game 3 in Dallas on Sunday night.
The Mavericks need to find a way to get consistent stops before then. Dallas was generating good looks and getting buckets all game long — they had an offensive rating of 117.2. The Warriors had a 126.3 rating (stats via Cleaning the Glass).
This looked like it would be a Mavericks’ game in the first half — they played harder and smarter than the Warriors. Doncic was getting downhill against Andrew Wiggins, getting into the paint, kicking out, and unlike Game 1 Dallas was knocking down its 3s. Throw in some sloppy Warriors turnovers and the Mavericks raced out to a 26-10 lead.
Doncic scored 18 in the first quarter and the Mavs hit 15-of-27 3-pointers in the first half. Everything was working. The Warriors were running Doncic pick-and-rolls with Reggie Bullock and the Warriors had no answer.
Then came a third quarter when the Mavericks were 2-of-13 from 3 and the team scored just 13 points, while Looney on his own created 14 (11 points himself plus a 3-pointer assist to Andrew Wiggins).
“When you go 2-for-13 and you rely on the 3, you can die by the 3,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said postgame. “And we died in the third quarter by shooting that many 3s and coming up with only two [makes].”
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) May 21, 2022
It became a 40-18 Warriors run in the second half as their momentum built. These were classic Warriors runs, where a ball handler would get into the paint, but the motion on the weak side never stopped and suddenly Thompson or Poole (23 points for the game) were open and getting looks.
Dallas’ got away from what had worked, and they fell apart under pressure. Their defensive rotations suffered as nobody helped the helper (allowing Looney to get open a lot), and closeouts on shooters were late. On offense, they got away from what worked and started going at Looney. That was a mistake.
That game was a punch to the gut for the Mavericks — they were ahead and could not hold on despite a huge night from Doncic. They have shown grit and resilience all postseason, but it will take a lot more than just that to beat the Warriors twice at home and make this a series.