DALLAS — Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic doesn’t necessarily see any honor in avoiding being swept in the Western Conference finals. He remains focused on beating the Golden State Warriors in the series, regardless of the long odds.
The Mavs are attempting to become the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series, a feat 146 others have failed to accomplish. Dallas took a step in that direction with a 119-109 win in Tuesday’s Game 4 at the American Airlines Center.
“I mean, I still believe we can win, you know,” Doncic said. “Swept or not swept, in the end, if you lose, you lose. Don’t matter how many we win. We have to go game by game. We’re going to believe until the end.”
Dallas has already pulled off one shocker in this postseason, rallying from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to eliminate the No. 1 overall seed Phoenix Suns in the conference semifinals. The Mavs wrapped up that series by routing the Suns by 33 points, the biggest blowout win by a road team in a Game 7 since 1948.
Doncic, the 23-year-old guard who was named first-team All-NBA for the third straight season before Thursday’s game, added to his list of impressive performances in potential elimination games with a 30-point, 14-rebound, nine-assist outing against the Warriors.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, he joined Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor as the only players in NBA history to score at least 30 points in each of their first five potential elimination games.
“I just want to win the game and that’s it,” Doncic said. “We got more to do, you know. This is nothing. We got three more.”
The Mavs built a 29-point lead after three quarters in large part by shredding the Warriors’ zone, which Dallas coach Jason Kidd called “a compliment … because they can’t guard us one-on-one.”
Dallas was 19-of-36 from 3-point range through three quarters, at which point Golden State coach Steve Kerr pulled his starters.
“We weren’t alert tonight defensively,” said Kerr, whose team has failed in its first closeout attempt in all three series this postseason. “We weren’t sharp. And I thought we let them kind of get into a groove, and once a team like that gets into a 3-point groove, it’s tough to get them out of it.”
But the game wasn’t without some drama, and not just from the leak in the roof that resulted in a 16-minute rain delay after halftime. The Warriors’ reserves sliced the Mavs’ lead to single digits with 3:23 remaining, leading Kerr to put starters Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins back on the court after a Dallas timeout.
Doncic dunked off a feed from Jalen Brunson on the next possession, bumping the lead back to 10, and the Warriors never got any closer.
“There’s no panic,” Kidd said. “We had a pretty big lead. They had to make a decision. They brought their group back in and couldn’t get it done.”
Now, the series will return to San Francisco for Thursday’s Game 5.
“Everybody in that locker room feels like we have more basketball to play,” said Mavs forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who had 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting. “We just wanted to get the win by any means necessary.”