Warriors absorb Power Punch from Luka Doncic, Mavs in Game 2, setting the stage for Stephen Curry’s KO punch


Warriors absorb Power Punch from Luka Doncic, Mavs in Game 2, setting the stage for Stephen Curry's KO punch

SAN FRANCISCO — You could see it coming before Game 2 even started. Shoot, you could see it coming before Game 1 even ended. The Dallas Mavericks were swept off the field in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday, and it was known they would face the Golden State Warriors on Friday with a renewed focus, better shooting feel and a vengeful, dangerous Luka Doncic.

“I’ve seen it my entire time in the NBA, player, executive, coach. Game 2 of a playoff series is always very different based on the outcome of Game 1,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said ahead of Game 2. “We’ve got to hold our lead tonight, and we’ve got to really come out and be ready for the Power they will undoubtedly bring.

The Warriors were not ready for the squad.

Just seven minutes into the game, the Mavericks had emerged with a 26-10 lead in front of a subdued crowd at the Chase Center. Doncic had already scored 12 points and Dallas had sunk five 3-pointers, fulfilling the promise of a bounce-back shooting night that so many had been expecting. Meanwhile, the warriors, although they knew what was coming, looked stunned, nervous and frustrated. They turned the ball over 10 times in the first half while allowing the Mavericks a staggering 15 3-pointers and 72 points.

Draymond Green was playing one of the worst halves of his playoff career when he suffered a technical error and got into serious trouble. Klay Thompson had just six points and amassed just two 3-point attempts by halftime. Stephen Curry was the only one who could get anything going, scoring 20 points on 5-of-7-3-point shooting in the first half when the Warriors were 14 behind.

Everything came to fruition. The probable had become the inevitable.

So when you see the end result, a 126-117 win for the Warriors to take a 2-0 lead in the series, it tells the story of a team absorbing a shaky body punch and getting back up off the mat. Not just to survive, but to dominate.

“I thought we were so scattered in the first half. Maybe more emotional than anything,” Kerr said after Game 2. “Dallas came out and just beat us. … So all we had to do was be ready and get the game under control.”

We’re used to the Warriors seeing barrages in the third quarter, but it’s usually offense driven. They posted a respectable 25 points in third place on Friday, but they only conceded 13 points to the Mavs, cutting the halftime deficit by 12 points.

“We just didn’t communicate well enough with pick and roll [in the first half]. They were able to get out and fire a few shots. They were able to find some shooters,” Warriors forward Otto Porter Jr. said after the game. “We got a little closer to them in the second half and gave them a hard time. We just played harder.”

As the fourth quarter rolled around, the offensive attack began, with a fresh face leading the charge. While Curry rested, Jordan Poole – who had an up and down in the postseason after a fantastic start – was absolutely masterful, scoring 12 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. He also lined up his teammates, including an absolute dime for Kevon Looney, who scored more than 20 points in a game for the first time since his freshman year at UCLA.

“When Steph comes off the floor, the defense focuses a bit more on me,” Poole said after the game. “So keep being aggressive and not just trying to play for my teammates, try to look for more shots and just keep our rhythm going.”

By the time Poole was substituted with just over six minutes left, the Warriors had turned a two-point deficit into a seven-point lead. From then on, the exploits were left to a much better-known face of the Warriors dynasty – Wardell Stephen Curry.

Curry checked in at the 6:24 mark of the fourth quarter and scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting. With Doncic lingering menacingly on the other side, Curry made sure any potential Mavericks comeback was crushed before it began. He finished the night with 32 points, scoring 6 out of 10 from the 3 point range.

“There’s a reason our team has won championships and it’s because we have players that are stars and players that are fearless and able to play under pressure and perform,” Kerr said after the game. “But especially Steph, the guy is one of the greatest players of all time. That’s what the big ones do.”

Fittingly, it was Curry’s long 3-pointer as the shot clock ran out with just over a minute left that sealed the win and allowed him to beat the Mavericks with his latest signature “night-night” celebration.

It’s become a cliché to cite the Warriors’ championship pedigree — a kind of nod to “heat culture” — but it’s hard to deny when witnessing feats like this. This was the Warriors’ 12th postseason comeback win after falling back by at least 15 points since Kerr’s 2014–15 as head coach. Part of that is due to the high-explosive offense they’ve consistently spawned, but you don’t come back from that much quite often without incredible resilience, confidence, and teamwork.

It allows you to smack a hand right to the jaw of a rowdy team featuring one of the NBA’s best players, then get up off the canvas to deliver the knockout punch—again.

“For us, the experience is just the chemistry – obviously this group is different – but we have that attitude, that spirit, that we never feel like we’re going to lose our composure,” Curry said after the Game 2 win. That belief then translates into execution in the game, and you can feel the momentum. It’s more just focused on what we’re doing. When we have that opportunity to stab the dagger or make three stops in a row, those are the times when we feel the good energy walking our way.”

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