Speaking to reporters before the game, Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle stressed that his team was going to be doing “much more scrambling on defense,” due to the “movement, fast pace and long shots,” of the visiting Golden State Warriors.
Much to Carlisle’s dismay, those words came to fruition much sooner than he had hoped.
For the third time in four games, Dallas struggled in the opening period of play. By the time the first frame came to a close, the Warriors had already piled up 40 points and built a 16-point lead en route to their sixth straight victory over the Mavericks, 133-103.
"We got hit early, and it’s taken us a bit to engage in a fight, and we were a little too late," Dallas Mavericks’ forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "You have to play almost a perfect game if you want to keep up with them for 48 minutes."
Even in defeat, the Mavericks were able to battle back and make things competitive down the stretch against the Atlanta Hawks in the season opener. On Saturday night in Houston, Carlisle got a strong fourth-quarter effort from his bench that kept a 16-point loss from being much worse.
Against the league’s deepest and most talented team, though, putting yourself at a disadvantage, even at home, isn’t a recipe for success.
It’s hard to say if it was by design, but it appeared as though the Mavericks were going to try to aggressively defend those long jump shots the Warriors love so much. Speaking strictly in terms of defending the 3-point line, the strategy was somewhat successful. In the first quarter, the Warriors only hit 4 of their 11 3-point attempts (36.4 percent).
But the approach left the Mavericks susceptible to that other thing that Carlisle emphasized before the game: ball movement. Defenders were often so wrapped up in containing elite scorers like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in one on-one situations that they struggled to keep track of the flurry of activity going on around them.
The lack of communication was particularly evident underneath the basket. Golden State is known for is lethal ability to finish from anywhere on the floor, especially in transition. But the Warriors showed they are just as difficult to contain in the half court. On more than one occasion in the early going, Dallas’ defenders lost track of back-door cutters that resulted in easy finishes at the rim.
"Every little mistake you make on the defense end, they’re going to make you pay," Nowitzki said.
By the time the first 12 minutes of carnage ended, Durant, Curry and Thompson still found a way to combine for 25 of their team’s 40 points first-quarter points, shooting a collective 8 for 13 (61.5 percent). As a team, the Warriors shot even better, converting 65 percent (13 of 20).
During the second quarter, the Mavericks put together one of their strongest efforts of the season as they cut the the lead to just three points at halftime. Dallas even managed to remedy some of its rebounding woes, as both teams finished with 22 boards apiece at the break.
"The second quarter was spectacular from an energy (perspective),and our ball movement and rebounding were good," Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. " … It was beautiful to see; we put some pressure on them and they had to call some timeouts."
But all the effort that it took to battle back took its toll as the second half went on. Playing without guards Seth Curry (knee) and Devin Harris (who’s dealing with the death of his brother), the Mavericks eventually wore down as they didn’t have nearly enough depth or talent to hang with the class of the league.
"You’ve got to believe that they are pretty determined with the record they had after three games," Carlisle said. "… (But), I’m looking for positives with these guys and we’ve got to accentuate those things and clean up the problems."
Peter Dawson: 817-390-7657, @TweeterDawson
GOLDEN STATE (133)—Durant 9-15 3-4 25, Green 4-8 1-1 10, Pachulia 1-3 0-0 2, St.Curry 7-15 13-13 29, Thompson 9-16 0-0 21, Casspi 0-0 0-0 0, Young 4-8 1-1 13, Bell 3-3 0-1 6, West 2-3 0-0 4, McGee 1-2 4-6 6, Livingston 4-5 0-0 8, McCaw 0-1 0-0 0, Iguodala 4-7 0-0 9. Totals 48-86 22-26 133.
DALLAS (103)—Matthews 7-13 2-2 19, Barnes 6-15 1-3 13, Nowitzki 4-12 3-4 11, Smith Jr. 3-11 4-10 10, Ferrell 3-8 4-4 13, Finney-Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Powell 4-10 1-1 10, Kleber 1-1 0-0 2, Noel 3-7 2-2 8, Withey 1-2 1-2 4, Barea 6-14 0-2 13, Clavell 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 38-96 18-30 103.
3-Point Goals—Golden State 15-39 (Durant 4-6, Young 4-7, Thompson 3-9, St.Curry 2-10, Green 1-3, Iguodala 1-4), Dallas 9-29 (Ferrell 3-5, Matthews 3-7, Withey 1-2, Powell 1-3, Barea 1-4, Finney-Smith 0-1, Clavell 0-2, Smith Jr. 0-2, Barnes 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Golden State 50 (Durant 8), Dallas 42 (Nowitzki, Barnes, Noel 7). Assists—Golden State 33 (Green, St.Curry 8), Dallas 21 (Barea 8). Total Fouls—Golden State 23, Dallas 20. Technicals—Golden State coach Warriors (Defensive three second), Dallas coach Mavericks (Delay of game). A—19,875 (19,200).