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The Mavs have lost three in a row to Golden State in the conference finals. One more loss will be the end of the road for them. How can they manage a win?
The Mavs have lost three in a row to Golden State in the conference finals. One more loss will be the end of the road for them. How can they manage a win?Glenn JamesGetty


What do the Mavericks need to do to win?

The Mavs have lost three in a row to Golden State in the conference finals. One more loss will be the end of the road for them. How can they manage a win?

Jennifer Bubel

The Dallas Mavericks need a miracle. No team in the history of the NBA playoffs has ever come back and won a series after being down 3-0. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible - just that the Mavs have a lot of work to do if they want to win four in a row to beat the Golden State Warriors and move on to the NBA Finals.

Game 4 is on Tuesday at American Airlines Center in Dallas at 9 p.m. ET. The Mavericks will need to win that game at home first. If they do, they’ll force a Game 5 in San Francisco. They need to win that one there to force a Game 6 back in Dallas again. Of course, they need to win that one, too to force a Game 7 to finish off the series in San Francisco. That’s a big ask. How can they pull it off?

The Mavericks need to rebound better

The Warriors are simply outrebounding the Mavericks. In Game 3, they outrebounded Dallas 47-33, leading to them outscoring the Mavs 18-4 in second-chance points. Those are significant numbers and have to change if the Mavs want a fighting chance.

“The rebounding, we’ve got to be way better,” said Mavs star Luka Doncic. “We’ve got to be more physical. It’s really tough with [Kevon] Looney. He’s an unbelievable player. He’s very underrated. Nobody talks about him. But I think he’s been doing an amazing job.”

Head coach Jason Kidd has been emphasizing the importance of teamwork throughout the whole postseason, as the brunt of the work seems to be falling on Doncic.

“It’s going to take all five. It’s not just [Luka Doncic] or Dwight or Maxi. It’s all five,” said Kidd. “We need Brunson to get back in there and help and we need Dorian. We need everyone, because we are small.”

Missing three-pointers, which Dallas heavily relies on, certainly doesn’t help. Dwight Powell pointed out as much in his postgame interview after the Game 3 loss.

“Longer shots typically result in a higher percentage of long rebounds,” Powell said. “You definitely have to patrol kind of that neutral zone of the high post, and even short corners.”

Mavericks aren’t getting their shots

That brings us to the next point. Even though the Warriors haven’t been getting as many great looks as the Mavs, they are exceeding their shot selection while Dallas is underperforming on theirs. In Game 3, Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber, and Davis Bertans had several wide-open looks, but only ended up going 1-18 from the field and 0-14 from three-point range. Doncic and Jalen Brunson are the only players getting significant shots in this series. The rest are shooting just 4-for-18 from the field and 2-for-12 from deep.

Superstar Doncic still has a learning curve

Even though Doncic has been the clear leader of the Mavs’ team, scoring his second consecutive 40-point game in Game 3, he’s still making some errors. That can be seen in the Mavs’ 2-6 all-time record when Doncic scores 40 points or more in the playoffs.

In the second quarter of Game 3, Doncic sat out and during that time, the Mavericks took a five-point lead after going on a 12-4 run. As soon as he came back, the defense was weak and the Warriors relentlessly hunted Doncic.

“I’m still learning,” Doncic said. “In the first two quarters, I played very bad. That’s on me. It’s my first time in the conference finals in the NBA. I’m 23. I’m still learning a lot.”

Kidd agrees that Doncic has contributed a lot to the team, but that there is still much work to do.

“I think sometimes we take it for granted that he’s just going to score 40 every night, because sometimes it is easy, or he makes it look easy. But it’s hard,” said Kidd. “You’re playing against a very good team in Golden State, they’re well coached, they’ve been here not just once, but a lot of times, and they learned from their losses.”

Mavs need to focus on Game 4

Of course, looking ahead to winning Game 7 right now is getting a bit ahead of ourselves. The Mavericks know they have to take it one game at a time. For now, they can hope to avoid a complete shutout by winning Game 4 in Dallas on Tuesday night. Their chances may depend on the Warriors, who have managed to avoid shutting out their opponents this whole postseason.

In the first round of playoffs, the Warriors nearly swept the Denver Nuggets, but fell short in Game 4, 126-121. They finished it off in Game 5 instead. In the conference semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies, something similar happened. They had a chance to close out the series in Game 5, but lost 134-95 on the road and had to finish off the series at home in Game 6. If the trend continues, Dallas could at least extend the series to five if they can just manage a home win in Game 4.