After their loss in the closing seconds on Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz, the Warriors returned to the friendly confines of Oracle Arena to start a four-game homestand with a matchup against the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks, who beat the Warriors on November 17th, would be short-handed for this game as they would not have Dennis Smith Jr., who missed the game with a sprained right wrist.
Even though they were without their point guard, the Mavericks made life very tough for the Warriors. The Warriors struggled for much of the first half, trailing by as many as nine points, before retaking the lead in the third quarter. The Warriors led for the rest of the way, pushing their lead to as big as 18 points. But the Warriors still had to withstand a furious Mavericks comeback in the fourth quarter, one that made it a single-possession game with under a minute remaining, to escape with the 120-116 win.
Jerebko’s career night
Saturday night’s game showcased what Jonas Jerebko brings to this Warriors team and why he was such a savvy addition this offseason. Jerebko came off the bench to score a career-high 23 points against the Mavericks. Jerebko has had a few of these kinds of games this season, quietly piling up points and impressing the casual viewer. This game was easily the best of them, one in which he played the biggest role in the Warriors getting getting a victory.
Jerebko went 2/4 from long distance against the Mavericks. One of those three-pointers came as part of a personal 7-0 run in the fourth quarter that allowed the Warriors to push their lead to 18 points.
When Jerebko gets open looks, he takes the shot. On this team, that’s exactly what you want. If you pass up those open looks, even if it’s to give the ball to an All-Star caliber player, you’re hindering the effectiveness of the offensive system. This has been a problem with some of the additions to the bench that the Warriors have made in the past couple of seasons, but it does not appear to be a problem for Jerebko.
But it wasn’t just Jerebko’s three-point shooting that made for such a memorable night. His energy played an enormous part in the Warriors getting the victory. Jerebko had four offensive rebounds against the Mavericks, keeping plays alive and allowing the Warriors to rack up second-chance points. One of those offensive rebounds came on this put-back of a missed Kevin Durant shot late in the third.
Jerebko scored nine of his points in that third quarter, one in which the Warriors reclaimed the lead for good. Jerebko’s energy was a catalyst for the Warriors, providing them with a spark after they’d struggled to find any kind of rhythm in the first half, and he deserves a great deal of credit for this Warriors victory.
To cap off the great night, Jerebko was brought up to the podium to take questions from reporters and had a special guest with him as he fielded the questions.
Jonas Jerebko with a podium game and brings a special guest pic.twitter.com/rXs07LU5Sx— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) December 23, 2018
Durant shines in all facets of the game against the Mavericks
While Jerebko had a career night on Saturday, it was business as usual for Durant. And by business as usual, I mean playing remarkably well.
Durant scored 29 points against the Mavericks, leading all scorers. Durant shot 50% from the field, went 3/5 from three-point range, and made all eight of his free throws as he displayed that efficiency that makes him such a dominant offensive player.
One of Durant’s three-pointers came when the Warriors needed one the most, leading by just one point with under a minute to go in the game.
Durant’s three-pointer sealed the Warriors’ victory and capped a night when Durant was the most consistent and effective offensive option.
But as he’s done so many times this season, Durant showed the complete-ness of his game against the Mavericks. Durant pulled down 12 rebounds on Saturday night, willing to bang and battle for boards with the Mavericks’ DeAndre Jordan. Durant also ended Saturday night’s game with 8 assists, his ninth game of the season with 8 or more assists.
Kevin Durant dished out 8 assists tonight. KD with 8 or more assists in a game:— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 23, 2018
-This season = 9 times in 33 games
-Last season = 10 times in 68 games
(Durant is averaging a career-high 6.1 assists this season)
The fact that Durant is averaging a career-high in assists-per-game this season renders the argument that he’s a player who doesn’t look for his teammates somewhat irrelevant. With some of their other star players struggling, Durant stepped up and provided the offensive firepower to make sure the Warriors earned this win.
Klay Thompson’s struggles continue
While the Warriors scored 120 points on Saturday night, they needed to attempt a ton of shots to reach that total. The Warriors attempted 98 field goals against the Mavericks, their second-highest total of the season, with the most field goals attempted by the team in one game this season coming in the overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors.
Stephen Curry had 22 points but did so on 7/22 shooting, going 6/17 from three-point range. Even though his shots weren’t always falling, Curry still found a way to grind out a nice game against the Mavericks.
The same could not be said about Klay Thompson. It was another rough game for him as he scored just 14 points on 6/15 shooting. For the fourth-straight game, Thompson struggled from long distance. Thompson went 0/5 from three-point range, his second-consecutive game without a made three-pointer.
The Mavericks defending of Thompson played a role in his struggles. They sent players at him to run him off the three-point line, forcing him to dribble more than he’d probably like and take occasionally-contested mid-range shots.
While Thompson’s development as a ball-handler has been a positive, as he's become someone who can create their own shot, he seems to have gotten away from doing the things he’s done over these past 4+ seasons and that have made him an All-Star. Hopefully Thompson will get back on track and he’ll start making three-pointers like we’re accustomed to seeing.
Doncic, Mavericks demand our attention
The Mavericks have played well in their two games against the Warriors this season. The Oracle crowd on this Saturday night got their first in-person look at Luka Doncic, the Mavericks’ stellar rookie. Doncic started the game hot, scoring 14 of his 19 points in the first quarter as the Mavericks led for much of the first half. The rest of the game was not as good for Doncic as he struggled against both a more focused Warriors’ defense and some injury issues (a bruised left hip kept him on the bench for the entire fourth quarter). But it was still an impressive first game in Oracle for Doncic.
After the game, Draymond Green had some high praise for the Mavericks’ rookie.
Draymond Green on Luka Doncic: “That dude good. Yeah, he got it. He gonna be a problem. He already a problem.”— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) December 23, 2018
Leading the way for the Mavericks was Wesley Matthews. In Saturday night’s defeat, Matthews scored 25 points, a season-high for him. Matthews also went 7/11 from three-point range, well above his career 38.3% average from long distance. But outside of Matthews, Doncic, and Harrison Barnes (who scored 17 points but went 0/7 from three-point range), the Mavericks didn’t get enough production throughout the game to steal a win.
Even though they lost on Saturday night, the Mavericks showed why they’re a team on the rise that will be a problem for the Warriors down the road, especially when they have a healthy and playing Smith Jr.
There’s no rest for the Warriors after this game as they have a matchup against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday evening.