After a two-year hiatus, the Golden State Warriors will be back in the NBA Finals. The Warriors officially won the Western Conference on Thursday with a 120-110 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 to clinch a 4-1 series victory. The Warriors may have been a bit lackadaisical in Game 4, and the Mavericks took advantage. Golden State did not make that mistake with another opportunity to advance to the Finals.
The Dubs had a palpable desire to finish things off in Game 5. From the opening tip, the Warriors demonstrated an extra effort in every facet of the game.
After the Mavericks found some holes in the Warriors' defense last game, Stephen Curry was aggressively hedging against Dallas’ pick-and-roll, forcing the Mavs to adjust to a new look. Every time the Dubs regained possession, they were pushing the ball downcourt quickly, daring Dallas to try and set up their half-court defense in transition.
Golden State’s stars were not the only players showing an added intensity. Andrew Wiggins was driving inside with an extra authority, seeming to search for physical contact to try and get to the line. Nemanja Bjelica, who filled in for Otto Porter Jr’s minutes, smothered Luka Dončić on multiple possessions with his superior size and strength.
The Mavericks kept up the intensity, but the disparity in talent was on full display. While the Warriors got significant contributions from players like Bjelica and Moses Moody, two players out of Golden State’s rotation entering the series, Dallas again failed to get quality production from more than a couple of players.
Spencer Dinwiddie nailed a pair of high-difficulty threes at the end of the first quarter to keep the Mavericks within single digits, but Dallas still trailed 28-23.
Jordan Poole made a couple of buckets early in the second quarter, but then the Dubs unleashed Klay Thompson. It may not have been Game 6, but “Game 6 Klay” was in attendance. Thompson scored 19 points in the first half and was cooking all game long.
Yet Thompson’s explosion did not prevent the Warriors from staying within the flow of their offense. There was a cockiness to Golden State’s play. Almost as if they understood that Dallas had no antidote to their overwhelming offensive firepower. Even after Thompson caught fire, the Warriors went multiple possessions without getting him a touch. It did not matter. The Dubs were producing open shots for everyone, and everyone was taking advantage.
Dinwiddie’s continued scoring punch kept the Warriors from completely embarrassing the Mavericks in the first half, but even with his showing, Dallas trailed 69-52 at halftime.
The Mavericks' two leading scorers, Dončić and Jalen Brunson, were horrible in the first half with their season on the line. They started the game a combined 7-for-26 from the field and lacked the defensive effort Dallas needed to contain the Warriors scoring outbursts.
Golden State’s defense deserves plenty of credit, but their work on the other side of the ball might be just as responsible. All series long, the Warriors went out of their way to involve Dončić and Brunson in as much action as possible, hoping to tire them out. Perhaps that played a part in their underwhelming Game 5 performances.
Dončić still had one more run in him. As the third quarter drew to a close, Luka made his first three of the game and led a 15-0 run that took less than four minutes of regulation. Poole ended the run with a layup at the end of the first quarter to give the Warriors a 94-84 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and all of a sudden, the Chase Center was feeling extra anxious.
As has been the story of the series, the Warriors extended their lead to start the fourth, as Wiggins finished a dunk to start the quarter before Draymond Green made a pair of buckets, pushing the lead to 16.
Golden State’s lead was 11 when Curry returned with under seven minutes remaining in regulation. The Mavericks were never able to cut the lead to single digits. Despite a late push from Dončić and Dinwiddie, the Warriors ended the Mavericks’ season.
Dončić finished with 28 points but took 27 shots from the field and was just 3-for-13 from three. Dinwiddie, on the other hand, scored 26 points on just 12 field-goal attempts, nailing 5 of his 7 three-point attempts.
Curry landed awkwardly on his ankle early in the game and never had to assert himself offensively. Still, he racked up 15 points, 9 assists, and 2 steals while serving as an effective decoy. Thompson scored a game-high 32 points on 8-for-16 shooting from three. Green, Wiggins, and Poole each added at least 16 points of their own. Kevon Looney also had another double-double, racking up 10 points and 18 rebounds.
While the Warriors would have loved to complete the sweep on Tuesday, Golden State will still enjoy some extra rest before the start of the championship series. Game 1 of the NBA Finals is scheduled for next Thursday, June 2nd. They will face the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals, where the Boston Celtics lead the Miami Heat 3-2 in a best of seven series. Regardless of who wins that series, the Warriors will have home court advantage, and host the first two games of the Finals.