NBA Finals hopes can sometimes die in a single play, and most often than not, the perpetrator is a game-winning shot to beat the buzzer. Think of Kawhi Leonard’s bouncing ball act versus Philadelphia in 2019.
But when Andrew Wiggins tried to kill the Dallas Mavericks’ chances of entering the finals, his method was shockingly different. It was done in a soul-crushing, mind-bending manner that happened midway through the fourth quarter.
The Mavs didn’t stop trying after this play. They kept pushing and pushing until they were able to cut the 10-point lead to half with only 1:15 left in the game.
Then Jordan Poole tried to kill the Dallas Mavericks’ chances of entering the finals with a 3-point dagger. NBA Finals hopes can also die in several ways, from many different angles. It can also be self-inflicted.
For the Mavericks, their chance of making it to the finals is dying because of these Warriors’ plays, and also because of their own doing. They again shot the ball horribly, missing their first seven 3s and finishing 13-of-45.
Twelve of those misses came from Reggie Bullock and Maxi Kleber. Both laid goose eggs and were a combined 0-of-15 on the floor.
Spencer Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson combined for 46 points, but it just wasn’t enough. Luka Doncic dropping 21 points in the fourth quarter just wasn’t enough.
Three games in, this series looks to be the same exact thing it was in Game 1.
Steph Curry got to shimmy. The Dallas Mavericks forgot how to shoot. A lot of things happened in between, yes, but the result was still the same: another win for the Golden State Warriors.
Dallas will now have to win four straight—two at the Chase Center—to make it back to the finals. It doesn’t look good, not with the way they’re shooting the ball.
From knocking out the Utah Jazz to punching up versus the Phoenix Suns, the Mavs looked to be running out of gas. While the shots may eventually go in at some point in Game 4 or Game 5, how about Game 6 or Game 7? Doncic may continue to churn out 40-point games, but how about his friends?
After the disappointing Game 3, Mavs head coach Jason Kidd veered away from talking strategy and went a bit existential in his postgame thoughts.
"This is just the beginning of this journey," Kidd said at the postgame press conference. "I know you guys had us winning the championship before the season started. And that's a joke if you didn't get it. But this is a lot bigger than just this one game or this one series. This is huge for our franchise because none of you guys had us here. You guys were all supposed to be on vacation.”
After a couple of first-round exits, Dallas made a big leap to the Western Conference Finals this year under Kidd’s leadership. Doncic is young. The Mavs are missing weapons. There are lessons to be learned; shots to be made. It’s promising.
Their NBA Finals hopes might be waning, but this isn’t the end for the Dallas Mavericks.