The Golden State Warriors fell to the Dallas Mavericks 116-113 on Tuesday night, with Klay Thompson’s game-tying three-point attempt before the final buzzer falling just short. Here are four key reactions from the Warriors’ hard-fought loss to Luka Doncic and the Mavericks.

4 reactions from Warriors’ hard-fought loss to Mavericks

There’s no good answer for Luka Doncic

Golden State’s willingness to switch across five positions has been a defining aspect of its ongoing dynasty since the very beginning. The “death lineup” is long gone and so is the “Hamptons five,” but that hasn’t stopped Steve Kerr from embracing switching of late almost as much as any coach in the league.

It paid off at times in the NBA Finals, with Stephen Curry’s ultra-physical defense frustrating Jayson Tatum in one-on-one situations as help defenders loaded to the ball. But Golden State was at its stingiest when Andrew Wiggins hounded Tatum across the floor and Draymond Green or Gary Payton II suffocated Jaylen Brown one-on-one, leaving Boston searching for other offensive pressure points.

There’s no other player like Luka Doncic in the NBA. Near impossible to contain in isolation, he’s still most dangerous when the defense is scrambling, leveraging his otherworldly passing ability to its utmost extent. Pick your poison; the “right” way to defend Doncic doesn’t exist.

But few teams in basketball—especially with Draymond on the floor—are better versed rotating behind the play than Golden State, and Wiggins cemented himself as a top-tier wing defender on the Warriors’ championship run. Why not work from those defensive strengths against Doncic?

Instead, Golden State opened Tuesday’s game by giving up soft on-ball switches to Dallas’ superstar playmaker, a strategy expected and readily exploited by Jason Kidd.

Doncic targeted Thompson in ball-screen action early and often, getting to the rim for multiple finishes and absolutely owning him on the block.

The Warriors surrendered an early Curry switch on Doncic, too, giving him all the strong-side help they didn’t provide for Thompson in the first half. The result? A four-point play for Tim Hardaway Jr. once Draymond committed to double-teaming.

Golden State eventually switched up its defense on Doncic, doing away with soft switches in favor of hedging and recovering. It’s not just Wiggins and Draymond who have the goods to make life hard on Doncic; Jonathan Kuminga and Kevon Looney do, too. JaMychal Green also got a few chances on Doncic after intermission.

But even when the Warriors manage the point of attack successfully, Doncic took advantage of less-than-perfect help on the backside.


Expect the Warriors to avoid wholesale switching should these teams meet again in the playoffs. They weren’t in an early hole on Tuesday solely due to Doncic abusing Curry and Thompson, but that certainly didn’t make it easier for them to stanch the Mavericks’ momentum.

A second unit turnaround

Golden State trailed 15-4 midway through the first quarter, missing makable look after makable look on one end and Doncic getting whatever he wanted on the other. Curry missed his first four shots, Wiggins was suddenly cold from the perimeter and the Warriors were pressing offensively as a result.

By the time Kerr went to his bench, Golden State was down 23-6—not exactly the start this team has come to expect from its dominant opening quintet. But in more than any other game this season so far, the Warriors’ bench picked up that slack, playing with a sense of urgency that had been sorely lacking from the opening tip.

Green had an and-1 dunk off quick-hitting halfcourt ball movement. Donte DiVincenzo made an immediate impact on both sides of the ball, skying for in-traffic rebounds, ripping Doncic’s dribble and igniting Golden State’s dormant transition attack. Anthony Lamb drained back-to-back threes, and Poole made a concerted effort to draw defenders and find open teammates.

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The Warriors’ bench cut that 17-point deficit to 12 at the first quarter buzzer, then had the defending champs in easy striking distance after the first few minutes of the second quarter.

The second unit continued changing the game in the second half, its palpable energy and intensity never more apparent than on this pivotal two-way sequence from the early fourth quarter.

Single-game plus-minus is hardly fool-proof, but really does tell the story of Tuesday’s game for Golden State. The bench simply outplayed the starters against Dallas, playing with the type of vigor and connectivity that evokes “Strength In Numbers” teams of the past.

It won’t be that way every night. For a fourth straight game since the Warriors’ rotation was revamped, though, the reserves played a key role in their team’s success—this time helping drive it against another Western Conference contender.

Jonathan Kuminga, impact player

Kuminga ‘s numbers—14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks on 5-of-6 shooting—are impressive, especially considering the ancillary role he occupies in Golden State’s offense. Still, they don’t come anywhere near conveying the all-around impact he made in a performance that serves as a blueprint for how he can most help the Warriors going forward.

Kuminga was Golden State’s best one-on-one defender of Doncic on Tuesday night, and it wasn’t particularly close. He proved plenty stout tangling with Doncic on the block, forcing multiple misses without help. Kuminga did a solid job keeping Doncic in front of him off the bounce, too, his rare strength and quickness on full display.

Kuminga committed to cleaning the glass on both ends, tearing down multiple one-handed rebounds. He also came out of nowhere for a pair of weak-side blocks at the rim, an indication of his growing comfort executing away from the ball defensively.

But the most telling indicator of Kuminga’s influence is that he was on the floor during some of the game’s biggest possessions. He came back on the court with just over four minutes remaining and the Warriors down two, taking turns with Wiggins as the primary defender on Doncic.

Kuminga calmly drained a corner three in crunch time, too, dared by the Mavericks to launch.

Kuminga didn’t play each of the final few minutes for Golden State. Just the fact Kerr had enough confidence in the 20-year-old to reinsert him for some of the game’s highest-leverage possessions, though, speaks volumes about Kuminga’s progress over the last couple weeks.

It’s a make-or-miss league

Here’s the game-tying look the Warriors got from on the game’s final possession.

Kerr may not draw up a better ATO play with Golden State down three all season long. Just like the game’s entirety, though, the Warriors’ jump-shooting failed them when they needed a make most.

They went 11-of-43 from deep against the Mavericks, good for 25.6% accuracy. Thompson, Wiggins and Poole combined to shoot 3-of-18 on triples. Curry was just 5-of-14.

The NBA, as the league’s oldest cliché goes, is a make-or-miss league. Just one or two more splashes, and Golden State leaves Dallas with arguably its best victory of the season, winners of four straight.