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Warriors cannot overcome disastrous start in 116-113 loss to Mavericks

Jonathan Kuminga was great off the bench, but the Dubs starters could not overcome an ugly start.

Steph Curry and Luka Dončić in the Golden State v Dallas Mavericks game Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors avoided embarrassment on Tuesday night in Texas, but the Dubs will be kicking themselves after losing 116-113 to Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks.

The Dubs got off to their worst start of the season, falling behind 23-6. The Mavericks, led by Dončić, controlled the game on both ends of the floor and took advantage of referees who seemed giddy to call fouls all night. Given how the Warriors non-starting units have fared this season, it looked like things could take an ugly turn.

Instead, the Warriors bench stepped up and had their best performance of the season. While Steph Curry played the entire first quarter, things opened up for the Dubs when head coach Steve Kerr began deploying the bench.

The Warriors stopped the Mavericks momentum with an 8-3 run and finished the first quarter trailing by a more respectable 36-24 score.

The new-and-improved unit that starts the second and fourth quarters of Jordan Poole, Donte DiVincenzo, Jonathan Kuminga, Draymond Green, and Anthony Lamb once again looked like a game-changing unit.

Kuminga looked more comfortable than he had all season on both ends of the floor. He was loose defensively and covered plenty of ground with his length and athleticism. He was a physical force on the glass and as an on-ball defender. Offensively, he avoided his tendency toward tunnel vision and almost exclusively relied on catching dump-offs around the rim for easy dunks. James Wiseman may have failed to find a role on the Dubs second-unit, but Kuminga seems to have stepped in and filled his shoes.

Before the end of the first half, Curry knocked down a three in transition to tie things up at 45. While the Mavs answered, Dallas only led 55-54 at the half.

The Dubs starters stumbled out of the gate in the third quarter, quickly allowing Dallas to build an eight-point lead. As was the case in the first half, though, the Warriors bench contained the damage. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Mavs led 92-87.

Once again, it was the Poole-DiVincenzo-Kuminga-Lamb-Green lineup that gave the Warriors real momentum. To start the quarter, Draymond finished a pair of layups before Spencer Dinwiddie’s elbow connected with Jordan Poole.

It was called a common foul on the floor but seemed like an obvious Flagrant 1. After a video review, the referees continued calling the game hyper-sensitively and gave Dinwiddie a Flagrant 2, which ejected him from the contest.

Poole knocked down both free throws and sparked an 11-2 run that gave Golden State a 100-96 lead. While Dončić immediately answered with a step-back three in Kuminga’s face, the Dubs ensured that Steph would return to the floor in a close game.

The Warriors were plagued by turnovers in the closing minutes, with Dončić consistently getting into passing lanes and anticipating the Dubs next offensive move.

Trailing 108-104 with three minutes left in regulation, Kuminga nailed an open corner three to pull the Warriors within one. After a stop, Dončić once again did an excellent job anticipating the Warriors playbook and nearly intercepted a pass to Curry in the corner. He didn’t though. Steph knocked down the heavily contested shot and the Dubs had the lead.

Tim Hardaway Jr. answered with a three of his own to put Dallas back in front. Less than a minute later, Dončić knocked down a mid-range fadeaway to put the Mavs up 115-112 with 59 seconds remaining in regulation.

An away-from-the-play foul allowed the Warriors to cut the lead to two. Curry had an open layup that could have tied the game on the subsequent possession, but he kicked it out in search of a three. Klay Thompson was open, but an excellent defensive rotation forced him to pass it off to Poole who missed the corner three.

Hardway missed a three that would have sealed the game with 18.2 seconds on the clock, and the Warriors had another chance.

Trailing 115-113, Curry dribbled around a screen and through two Mavericks defenders, pump faked, and before he could attempt a shot, a whistle sounded, and he was called for a travel. With the shot clock off, the Warriors had to foul.

The Warriors were able to keep the ball away from Dallas’ best shooters and put Dorian Finney-Smith (a career 72.0% free-throw shooter) at the line. He made the first attempt but missed the second.

The Dubs trailed 116-113 with 4.1 seconds remaining. They needed a triple. Kerr drew up an excellent in-bounds play that got the ball in Thompson’s hands for an open shot from the left wing, but it bounced off the front iron and was rebounded by Dončić as time expired.

Dončić had the most impressive statline of the night, completing a triple-double with 41 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. He also led the Mavericks with a +22 plus/minus. Hardaway Jr. added 22 points while Dinwiddie had 14 when he was ejected. Josh Green added 13 points off the bench.

Curry led the Warriors in scoring with 32 points, adding 5 rebounds and 5 assists. While five other Dubs reached double-figures, Kuminga was second on the team with 14. He also had 10 rebounds and was a team-best +21. Unlike Kuminga, Andrew Wiggins turned in his worst performance of the season, finishing with 10 points and just one rebound while shooting 4-for-11 from the field and 1-for-2 from the free-throw line.

Now 11-11 on the season, the Warriors will return home to host the Bulls on Friday. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 PM Pacific.

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