Luka Dončić returned from a one-game absence to pour in 39 points, leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 132-122 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
Dončić Dazzles in Return
After sitting out Thursday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers with quad soreness, Dončić showed no ill effects in his return to the court. He connected on 13 of his 22 shot attempts, including 6 three-pointers, while adding 12 assists and 7 rebounds.
The 23-year-old star dictated the flow of the game offensively, repeatedly breaking down Golden State’s defense with his patented step-back jumpers and crafty drives to the basket. He also set up his teammates with crisp, pinpoint passes all night long.
Dončić’s performance comes on the heels of him making NBA history in December by averaging 33.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game. The only other player to ever achieve those numbers over a full calendar month was Oscar Robertson in 1964.
Supporting Cast Steps Up
While Dončić stole the show with his offensive brilliance, he received plenty of help from his supporting cast. Josh Green was extremely aggressive in attacking the basket, scoring 17 points on an efficient 7-9 shooting. Tim Hardaway Jr. knocked down six threes en route to 22 points.
Christian Wood dominated the glass, hauling in 15 rebounds to go along with 21 points. Spencer Dinwiddie provided a scoring spark off the bench with 10 points. Simply put, contributions came from up and down the Mavericks’ roster.
|Mavericks Top Performers
|Tim Hardaway Jr.
When Dončić gets this type of support, the Mavericks become an extremely difficult team to defeat. The Warriors found that out the hard way tonight.
Warriors’ Defensive Struggles Continue
Golden State has built its dynasty on the defensive side of the ball, but this season has seen that identity disappear. They came into this contest surrendering the third-most points per game at 117.5.
That porous defense was on full display Saturday night, as the Mavericks shot a blistering 57.5% from the field. Dallas picked apart the Warriors in transition and in the halfcourt, seeming to get any shot they wanted all night long.
Klay Thompson in particular had an extremely rough outing defensively. The normally solid wing defender got toasted repeatedly by Dončić and Hardaway Jr.
Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green also failed to provide their trademark resistance on that end of the floor. Until Golden State fixes its defensive issues, they will likely continue their slide down the Western Conference standings after three straight NBA Finals appearances.
Warriors’ Offense Clicks Despite Loss
Despite their defensive struggles, Golden State’s offense was operating on all cylinders Saturday night. Steph Curry led the way with 25 points and 9 assists, while Thompson poured in 23 points.
Jordan Poole provided a nice scoring punch off the bench with 21 points on 7-13 shooting. The Warriors shot 52% as a team, including 18 made threes. But it still wasn’t enough firepower to outduel Dončić and the high-octane Mavericks.
|Warriors Top Performers
Golden State will still fancy their chances against most teams on any given night with this type of offensive production. But their defense must markedly improve if they hope to regain championship form this season.
What This Means Moving Forward
With the victory, the Mavericks strengthened their position in the Western Conference. At 22-16, they currently sit fifth in a tightly contested playoff race. The return of a healthy Dončić makes them a dangerous opponent that nobody will want to face come April and May.
Meanwhile, the loss dropped the Warriors to 19-18, just one game ahead of the final play-in position. They are a far cry from the dominant team that posted a 27-6 record through 33 games last year. With holes on the defensive end and a lack of depth, there is still plenty of work ahead if Golden State plans on contending again this season.
Both teams have one final game remaining in 2023 before flipping the calendar to the new year. The Mavericks will travel to San Antonio to take on the Spurs on Sunday night. One night later, the Warriors will host Nikola Jokic and the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets on Monday.
This story will continue to develop in the coming days, weeks and months. As two teams with championship aspirations, the Mavericks and Warriors could very well meet again with even higher stakes later this season. For now, Dončić and Dallas have the upper hand after Saturday’s offensive explosion.
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