The Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors came in with the exact same plan in Game 1 – sell out on the stars and make the other players beat them.
Well, the others showed up for the Warriors, and that was the difference in a 112-87 blowout win Wednesday night.
The strategy led to Stephen Curry and while they were being hounded by Mavericks defenders, Andrew Wiggins was feasting on open looks struggling to start the game.
Curry couldn’t buy a shot and even missed three of his first 4 free throws, while Thompson didn’t hit a shot until the third quarter.
Kerr thought his stars were almost too amped up to start the game:
I just thought both Klay and Steph were in a rush early in the game. We just needed to slow down and move the ball a little bit better and once we started to do that, the game started to open up for both guys. That’s how the playoffs are, everybody is so amped up and you’ve got to settle in and it just took those guys in particular a little bit of time to settle in.”
But while they were being hounded by Mavericks defenders, Andrew Wiggins was feasting on open looks.
Wiggins had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and made Dallas pay for selling out to stop Curry.
And he did it while also guarding Luka Doncic for most of the night and being a part of holding the Dallas stat to just 6-of-18 shooting.
It’s no coincidence that the first question of Kerr’s press conference was about Wiggins:
I thought Wiggs was fantastic. Doncic is as difficult a cover as there in this league and we just asked Wiggs to try to hound him and guard him as best as he could, stay in front and try to keep the pressure on him and he did a fantastic job. Wiggs is just a huge part of our defense and our team. I thought he was great offensively as well. So great night for Andrew.”
He was joined by Kevon Looney, who for the second-straight game, had himself a stellar night.
Looney didn’t pull in 22 rebounds again, he had just five Wednesday night, but he also had four assists, two blocks and 10 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field.
Since Looney entered the starting lineup, the Warriors have gotten much better starts and have ridden that momentum to two lopsided victories.
Looney isn’t going to wow you with anything he does on the court, but he’s the perfect compliment to Steve Kerr’s motion offense, and always seems to pick exactly the right moment to cut into a wide-open lane and get an easy pass from Curry or Draymond Green.
He played 28 high-level minutes, and most of those were spent being hunted by Doncic and the rest of the Mavs on defense.
But that’s fool’s gold for anyone who has been following the Warriors. They know Looney has a history of being able to stay in front of quicker perimeter players — just ask James Harden and the rest of those old Houston Rockets teams.
And when he goes to the bench, the Warriors ride with Otto Porter Jr., who may as well be Looney’s mental doppelganger, just in a quicker, more agile body.
Porter scored 10 points, while playing the cerebral defense that gave Dallas fits all night.
The Warriors shut down the paint and let the Mavs cast from the outside all night, which they all too happily accepted.
Golden State shot a dismal 11-of-48 from 3, but they were on pace for an even more historic shooting slump as they shot 28 3’s before halftime.
Kerr said that the amount of 3’s they get up really spreads out the defense:
They took 48 threes and it’s hard to cover all that ground. So it requires a ton of effort, and for the most part that effort was there. We really contested shots well and tried to challenge everything we could. So it was a matter of just playing with a lot of force and really bringing the effort.
Even with their struggles, they actually outscored the Warriors from the 3-point-line, but it was Golden State’s inside scoring that was the difference.
They outscored the Mavs 44-32 in points in the paint, and it would have been worse if not for the extended garbage time.
Most of those thanks to their role players. Seven of the eight Warriors who saw non-garbage time minutes finished with double-digit points, the only one who didn’t was Damion Lee, who didn’t take a shot until late in the fourth quarter.
Of their eight-man rotation, anyone not named Curry or Thompson shot a combined 30-for-47.
Whereas the Mavs other’s not named Doncic or Spencer Dinwiddie, shot just 14-for-44.
Who knows if this style of defense is sustainable though, as a lot of the shots Dallas were missing, were wide open 3’s for a team that led the NBA in 3-pointers during the regular season.
Thompson was quick to caution anyone from getting too high from this game:
It didn’t help they played two days ago, that emotional high of winning a Game 7. So, we expect them to come back with a much better effort on Friday. It’s just one game. We can feel good now but this team was down 2-0 and won the series last round.
But for one game, the Warriors supporting cast made the Mavericks pay for treating them as afterthoughts. The real question is, can they do it three more times?
For this entire series each game will just have one days rest between them, which means these teams will be back at Chase Center Friday night.
The Warriors are still without Andre Iguodala, who doesn’t have a firm timetable on when he’ll return, and Gary Payton II, who Kerr said might have a slight chance of being able to make it back sometime this series.