Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd hailed Luka Doncic after his starring role in their Game 4 win over the Golden State Warriors having been named in the All-NBA first team earlier on Tuesday.

Doncic had a near triple-double with 30 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists as the Mavericks won 119-109 over the Warriors to avoid a clean sweep.

Earlier in the day, Doncic had been named alongside Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker in the All-NBA first team for the third time in his career.

"I don’t think anybody is surprised that he's first team but it's really cool," Kidd told reporters.

"It shows the talent level. The other four are pretty talented too. It shows where he's going, his growth."

Kidd was full of praise for Doncic, who also had two steals and two blocks in Game 4, playing a key role in the fourth quarter to ward off the Warriors' late charge.

"What he does for this team is incredible, not just points and assists, but being able to rebound the ball," Kidd said.

"At the end, he came up with a nice little blocked shot to pad his defensive stats. He's our leader. When he goes, we go. He loves that stage.

"Being first team with the other four, it's a great honour for him."

Doncic, 23, was delighted with the accolade, which comes for the third straight season, having joined the Mavs in 2018.

"It's a blessing," Doncic told reporters. "As a kid I only dreamed of being in the NBA, and now it's my third All-NBA team.

"It's a blessing. I'm really happy and thankful to everybody that made it happen."

Doncic was also hopeful about the Mavericks in the Conference Finals despite history being against his side, who trail the Warriors 3-1.

Tuesday's win was the Mavs' fourth in franchise history in a Game 4 when facing a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series, losing Game 5 on the previous three occasions. Golden State has led 10 playoff series 3-0 in the past, sweeping six and winning in five on four occasions.

"I still believe we can win," Doncic said when asked if he was relieved to avoid a sweep.

"Swept or not swept, in the end, if you lose, you lose. It doesn’t matter how many you win, but we have to go game by game. We're going to believe until the end."

The Dallas Mavericks forced a Game 5 in the Western Conference Finals after holding off the fast-finishing Golden State Warriors, winning Game 4 119-109 on Tuesday.

Luka Doncic scored a team-high 30 points for the Mavs, including a crucial fourth-quarter dunk after the Warriors closed within eight points with 3:23 to play.

The Slovenian was one assist away from a triple-double, with 14 rebounds and nine assists along with two steals and two blocks, shooting 10-of-26 from the field.

The Mavericks shot 20-of-43 three-pointers for the game to stave off elimination, with Dorian Finney-Smith contributing 23 points and Reggie Bullock adding 18 points with six triples.

Dallas, who trailed 3-0 in the series coming into Game 4, led by as much as 29 points after dominating the middle quarters before the Warriors stormed home with a 39-20 final quarter.

Golden State's bench players led the fightback, with Jonathan Kuminga scoring 17 points, but Stephen Curry was their top scorer in the game, with 20 points.

Fifteen of Curry's 20 points came in the first half, while he also had five rebounds, eight assists and one steal.

The Warriors shot 10-of-28 from beyond the arc, with Curry only managing two-of-five from three-point range, while Klay Thompson went two-of-six for his 12 points.

After the Mavs led 62-47 at half-time, the game was delayed for 16 minutes in the third quarter after heavy rain in Dallas leaked onto the American Airlines Center court from the roof.

Dallas would hold on, marking the fourth time they have won Game 4 when facing a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series, losing Game 5 on the previous three occasions.

Golden State has led 10 playoff series 3-0 in the past, sweeping six and winning in five on four occasions. 

Game 5 will take place in San Francisco on Thursday.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was in no mood to talk about the playoffs on Tuesday and instead delivered a desperate plea against gun violence following the latest mass shooting in the United States.

Kerr was attending his usual pre-game news conference prior to Game 4 of the Conference Finals between the Warriors and the Dallas Mavericks and started by declaring he would not discuss basketball.

The Warriors head coach, whose father was shot dead in a terrorist attack in Beirut in 1984, instead spoke about the shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday where at least 19 students and two adults were killed.

Kerr, who was visibly emotional, directed his anger at senators for refusing to pass legislation requiring background checks on people before their purchase of firearms.

"Any basketball questions don’t matter. Since we left shootaround, 14 children were killed, 400 miles from here and a teacher," Kerr told reporters, before banging his hands on the table and yelling: "When are we going to do something?

"I'm tired. I am so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I am tired of the moments of silence. Enough!

"There's 50 senators right now who refuse to vote on H.R.8, which is a background check rule that the House passed a couple of years ago that's been sitting there for two years. There's a reason they won't vote on it, to hold on to power.

"I ask you [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell, all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence, the school shootings and the supermarket shootings, I ask you are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of children and our elderly and our church-goers. That's what it looks like."

Kerr called for fans to deeply consider the victims and not desensitise themselves to another mass shooting, with the game still to be played.

"We can't get numb to this," Kerr said.

"We can't sit here and just read about it and go 'well let's have a moment of silence, go Dubs'. 'C'mon Mavs, let's go'."

Luka Doncic said he is "still learning", with his 40-point haul not enough to prevent the Dallas Mavericks from going 3-0 down in the Western Conference Finals series to the Golden State Warriors.

The 109-100 defeat in American Airlines Center means the Mavs have the unlikely task of needing to win the next four games in a row to make the NBA finals.

Doncic top scored in the game, while also making 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks, but felt he did not play well enough in the first half.

Spencer Dinwiddie (26) and Jalen Brunson (20) offered assistance but the hosts just could not keep up with the Warriors, with Stephen Curry coming away with 31 points and 11 assists.

"I'm still learning," Doncic said after the game. "I think the first two quarters, I played very bad. That's on me. But I'm still learning. I think after this season is done, whatever we are, I think we're going to look back and learn a lot of things.

"It's my first time in the Conference Finals in the NBA. I'm 23, man. I'm still learning a lot."

Despite Doncic's concerns about the first two quarters, it was the third where the game got away from Dallas, with the Warriors extending their half-time lead of one point to 10 points by the start of the fourth quarter.

However, the Slovenian praised the Warriors for their form and credited their development as a team over recent years.

"I think the Warriors are playing incredible," he added. "Everybody knows their role. Everybody just stays together.

"They're a long-built team. They've been together for a long time, and I think they're playing good basketball, so that's what I think is going to be really difficult. And these past three games, it's been very difficult."

Mavs head coach Jason Kidd offered similar thoughts, and insisted his team are just at the start of their "journey".

"This is just the beginning of this journey," Kidd said. "I know you guys had us winning the championship before the season started, and that's a joke if you didn't get it. But this is a lot bigger than just this one game or this one series. This is huge for our franchise because none of you guys had us here.

"So it's cool to go through this, and we're going against... you can call them a dynasty. They have three great players who will be hall of famers, and this is a great lesson learned from us.

"This isn't the end. This is just the beginning."

Stephen Curry avoided injury late in the first half of the Golden State Warriors' 109-100 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday after he tripped over a vendor at court-side.

Curry fell over the unsuspecting man serving drinks in the final seconds before the main interval as he scrambled to close out on a Reggie Bullock three-point attempt.

With his extensive history of ankle injuries, the former unanimous MVP was visibly frustrated with the accident, but went on to score 31 points as the Warriors took a 3-0 series lead over the Mavs.

Curry's frustration was not directed at the vendor however, which he clarified post-game.

"Yeah, man, there's like 30 seconds left before half-time, you're ordering a drink," Curry said after the game. "Just wait until half-time. I don't know why they needed to deliver it right then, but thankfully I was alright.

"He [the vendor] was doing his job, so hopefully he got a big tip."

Curry shot an even 50 per cent on his way to those 31 points, while adding 11 assists and five rebounds in the win.

Rebounds were big for the Warriors, especially on the offensive glass, with Kevon Looney and Andrew Wiggins combining for 10 while the Mavs grabbed seven as a team.

Looney had only seen over 20 minutes twice over the two series against Denver and Memphis, but following his double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds in Game 2, pitched in with nine points, 12 rebounds and four assists on Sunday.

Curry singled out Looney for praise following the game, highlighting him as a reflection of the team's identity. 

"It's a testament to how things change in the playoffs, from series to series and even within that from game to game, where you've got to have everybody stay ready," he said.

"Loon comes in Game 6 [against Memphis] and makes a huge difference, has a career night rebounding the ball. In this series, he's had career nights and had an amazing impact.

"It's how we do things, with everybody being a part or being a factor at some point, but it's how the playoffs go. You just love to see a guy get rewarded for staying ready."

The Golden State Warriors moved a step closer to a sixth NBA Finals appearance since 2015 with a 109-100 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, taking a 3-0 series lead.

After shooting six-of-10 from beyond the arc in Game 2, Stephen Curry was again in fine shooting touch as the series moved to Dallas, scoring 31 points on 10-of-20 shooting.

The former unanimous MVP tripped over a vendor early in the first half, but went on to overtake Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki for career 30-point playoff games while also shooting an even 50 per cent from the perimeter, adding 11 assists and five rebounds.

The Warriors found the right balance and took care of the basketball while still assertively moving it, with only 10 turnovers and 28 assists off 38 made field goals for the game.

Five Warriors scored in double figures in the Game 3 win while the team finished with a 12-point margin for points in the paint (46-34).

It counteracted their relatively disappointing shooting performance on the night, along with a big rebounding night from the team, doubling the Mavericks in offensive rebounds (14-7) for the game.

Andrew Wiggins was critical in that respect, grabbing six offensive rebounds of his own for 11 total rebounds, along with 27 points and three assists.

The Mavs could not get anything going in the half-court and generate good attempts from the perimeter despite a high volume on home court, going 13-of-44 as a team.

Luka Doncic put up 40 points on 11-of-23 shooting along with 11 rebounds but the Warriors worked to restrict the Mavs' shooters, with Reggie Bullock and Maxi Kleber shooting a combined zero-of-12 from beyond the arc.

 

 

Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd was left frustrated by his side's shot selection as they went 2-0 down to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

Despite a strong lead after the second quarter thanks to a best-in-show Luka Doncic, who posted 42, the visitors were pegged back for a second consecutive loss at Chase Center.

The Mavs blew several chances to keep daylight between themselves and their hosts in the third quarter, but an over-reliance on attempts to bags 3s left them to suffer.

"When you go 2-for-13 and you rely on the 3, you can die by the 3," Kidd said. "And we died in the third quarter by shooting that many 3s and coming up with only two.

"If you make [3s], that's great, but you just have to understand, if you miss four in a row, you can't take the fifth.

"You've got to make it. That just puts too much stress on yourself and on your team because, if you're not getting stops on the other end, it turns into a blowout."

The Mavs face a tough road back into contention, but will take consolation from the fact a 2-0 deficit is far from insurmountable, having been knocked out by the Clippers last season with a similar advantage after two games.

They also boast Doncic, one of the best form players in the NBA right now, and the Slovenian admitted his side could have put more in.

"We weren't attacking the paint that much," he added. "But we got to attack the paint more, like they did. They attacked the paint a lot.

"They have two of the best shooters in the world, and they still attack the paint. So I think we've got to rely less on the 3."

Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry feels his side has become a well-oiled machine over the course of the season, but admitted sometimes there is nothing you can do about Luka Doncic's brilliance.

The Warriors came back from 53-34 down with seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, holding the Dallas Mavericks to 13 points in the third period, before winning the last frame 43-32 to run over the top late.

Curry top-scored for the Warriors with 32 points on 11-of-21 shooting, while Jordan Poole was terrific off the bench with 23 on seven-of-10 shooting, including 12 in the fourth quarter.

Despite the loss, Doncic scored a game-high 42 points on 12-of-23 shooting, while also dishing a game-high eight assists.

During Curry's post-game media appearance, he said he feels like the Warriors have figured a lot out defensively over the course of the season, but players like Doncic are simply "nice like that".

"[Chemistry] is something that's been slowly building over the course of the regular season," he said. 

"It didn't always show on the court, but the roles, and how we play on both ends of the floor, everybody is comfortable with what they're being asked to do.

"Even [Wiggins] – he has a tough challenge of chasing Luka pretty much everywhere, every time he's out there on the floor. 

"He understands he's going to get scored on – because Luka is nice like that – but over the course of 48 minutes you figure out how to wear him down a little bit, and go back at him on the offensive end."

He went on to say he does not think about the Mavericks' lack of playoff experience, with the Warriors instead focusing on imposing their will.

"It's not [Dallas' lack of experience] – it's just the supreme confidence in what we do," he said.

"You don't really know what they're talking about in the huddle, you don't feel what's going through their mind, it's just you imposing your will.

"For us, the experience, and the chemistry – obviously this group is a bit different – but we have that attitude and spirit that we feel we're never out of it. I think only one game in this playoff run we've been severely outmatched from start-to-finish.

"That belief then turns into execution in the game, and you can feel the momentum. It's more focused on what we do, and when you have the opportunity to stick in the dagger, or come up with three stops in a row, those are the times when you feel that good energy."

Curry also touched on the Mavs' hot start, which saw them put up 72 points in the first half, and how the Warriors can make large deficits disappear in a hurry.

"We knew they were going to come out aggressive, and making shots," he said. 

"We didn't think they were going to be that hot – it seemed like no matter what we did they always found the right guy, and they had no hesitation to shoot it.

"They had 15 threes in the first half – it felt like a lot – but all of a sudden you look at the scoreboard and we got it down to two at one point, and then it ballooned out to 14.

"14, for us, is more than manageable if we come out and influence the game, starting on the defensive end.

"When you can limit a team like that to 13 points [in a quarter] – it wasn't like a flurry, but it seemed like we regained the momentum, and slowly, and methodically walked them down.

"The first six minutes of the fourth quarter was kind of the real momentum shift – it gave the crowd some life, and gave us some life, and allowed us to run away with the win."

Game 3 and Game 4 will head to Dallas, and if the Warriors can win just one, they will head back to Golden State for Game 5 with a 3-1 lead.

The Golden State Warriors produced a spectacular comeback in front of their home fans to defeat the Dallas Mavericks 126-117 and take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

It appeared early that the Mavericks would be the ones heading back to Dallas for Game 3 and Game 4 with momentum, as Luka Doncic had 24 first-half points to help his side to a 72-58 half-time lead.

But the Warriors went up a level defensively in the third period, holding the Mavericks to just 13 points as they chipped away at the margin, which peaked at 53-34 with seven minutes to play in the second frame.

While the third quarter was a defensive struggle, allowing the Warriors to pull the margin back to two points, the fourth was an offensive explosion as the two teams combined for 75 points.

Ultimately, the Mavericks could not keep up as the Warriors piled on 43 points in the term, including 12 of Jordan Poole's 23 off the bench (seven-of-10 shooting), and 10 of Stephen Curry's 32 (11-of-21 from the field, six-of-10 from long range).

Warriors center Kevon Looney was also a difference-maker, scoring 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting and grabbing 12 rebounds, while Andrew Wiggins had 16 points (five-of-14 shooting) and Klay Thompson had 15 (six-of-10).

For the Mavericks, Doncic finished with a game-high 42 points on 12-of-23 shooting, as well as game-highs in assists (eight) and steals (three).

He was supported strongly by Jalen Brunson, who had 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting, and Reggie Bullock, who shot six-of-10 from three-point range for his 21 points.

Game 3 and Game 4 will be nearly must-wins for the Mavericks, because if they lose just one of the two, the Warriors will head home for Game 5 with a 3-1 lead.

The Dallas Mavericks have faith in Luka Doncic to put a disappointing Game 1 behind him when they meet the Golden State Warriors again on Friday.

Mavs superstar Doncic was tightly marshalled by the Warriors on Wednesday, with the Slovenian only managing 20 points on six-of-18 shooting.

Andrew Wiggins was the primary defender on Doncic, who had seven turnovers and was also limited to seven rebounds and four assists in a 112-87 defeat.

However, team-mate Spencer Dinwiddie has full confidence that one of the best players in the NBA has the ability to be back at his best in Game 2.

"He's just brilliant. I think he's seen every defense from probably playing professionally overseas when he was younger," Dinwiddie told reporters.

"If you've seen it before, you've probably developed counters for it.

"So, now, it's just about continuing to improve game by game, and he's one of the best in the business at doing that."

The sentiment was echoed by Mavs coach Jason Kidd, who said: "[Doncic] understands what [the Warriors] are trying to do, and he'll be better, we believe that in that locker room."

Doncic was still the second-highest scorer in Game 1, behind only Warriors talisman Stephen Curry, who had 21 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

Golden State Warriors wing Klay Thompson emphasised that it all starts on the defensive end, while highlighting the performance of Andrew Wiggins after his side's 112-87 Game 1 blowout of the Dallas Mavericks.

The Warriors had seven players score in double-figures, led by Stephen Curry with a game-high 21 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, along with tying for the game-high with four assists.

While the Warriors' offense was strong, shooting 56.1 per cent from the field, it was their defense that won them the game, holding the Mavericks to 18 points in the first quarter and igniting a 15-4 run to start the third.

A main talking point from the series opener was the impressive performance of Andrew Wiggins, scoring 19 points while being the primary defender on Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, holding him to 20 points on six-of-18 shooting with seven turnovers.

Speaking after the game, Thompson discussed the narrative that he is not the defender he once was and what he thinks makes the Warriors defense so good.

"I think our length, starting with Andrew [Wiggins] – he was moving them puppies tonight," he said.

"I still take pride in my defense, no matter what people say about if I've 'lost it' or not, I still think I'm a very good defender. Steph is in the [passing] lanes, obviously Draymond [Green], we can count on him every night on that side of the ball.

"I don't really pay attention to the noise [about criticism of his defense] – I know what I'm capable of, and I know what my team-mates are capable of. I knew we were able to do what we did tonight – it was just going to take a lot of focus and trusting each other.

"I'm trying. It's hard. Marking the best player every night for 40 minutes is not easy, and going to get buckets on the other end, but it's something I love to do. 

"All the best two-guards to ever play the game played both sides of the ball – whether it was Mike [Jordan], Kobe [Bryant], [Dwyane Wade], guys I really idolised as a kid – they all competed on that side, so I just try to follow the same mould."

Thompson went on to touch on the mediocre performance from Doncic, before showering Wiggins with further praise, saying he is happy people are finally seeing "who he really is".

"Luka is obviously one of the best players in the world," he said. "It didn't help that they played two days ago, off that emotional high of winning a Game 7, so we expect them to come back with a much better effort on Friday. 

"That's why [Wiggins] was the number one pick [of the 2014 NBA Draft]. You can't teach that athleticism, you can't teach that length or his timing. 

"I'm just happy the world is getting to see who he really is – an incredible wing player – and he will be like this for the next 10 years.

"I think him being here, he's allowed to be himself. We have so many great, talented players that it can be somebody's night and the ball will find them. 

"Andrew was incredible tonight, I can't say enough good things about him. 

"He makes my job so much easier, I don't have to check the best player every night – after what I've been through, that's a nice change of pace. He doesn't seem to get tired, his outside shot has greatly improved, and he's just coming into his own.

"It's just one game, and we can feel good now, but [the Mavericks] were down 2-0 and won their series last round."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr echoed Thompson's sentiments about Wiggins.

"I thought [Wiggins] was fantastic," he said. "Doncic is as difficult a cover as there is in this league, and we just asked Wiggs to try to hound him and guard him as best as he could. 

"He did a fantastic job – Wiggs is just a huge part of our defense and our team. I thought he was great offensively as well, so great night for Andrew."

When asked about the job the Warriors defense did on him, Doncic was respectful but had little to add.

"They did a great job – that's it, that's all I have to say. They did a great job," he said. 

"It's one game, that's what the playoffs is about. Whether you lose by one or you lose by 40, it's a loss, so we just have to get ready for Game 2 now."

The Golden State Warriors were spectacular in the opening game of their Western Conference Finals series against the Dallas Mavericks, leading throughout for a 112-87 win.

Defensive stops were the theme for the Warriors, holding the Mavericks to just 18 points in the opening quarter to open up a 10-point lead after the first frame.

The Mavericks trimmed the margin to 35-33 halfway through the second quarter, but from that point on it was all Warriors, led by Andrew Wiggins' highest-scoring playoff half of his career as he had 15 to lead his side to a 54-45 half-time advantage.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson took over in the third period, combining for 20 of the Warriors' 34 points to help their side jump ahead by 20 points, allowing the hosts to coast home unchallenged in the last.

Curry finished with game-highs in points and rebounds, with 21 on seven-of-16 shooting and 12 respectively, while Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins chipped in 19 points each on a combined 16-of-29 shooting.

Six Warriors players finished with at least three assists, and as a team they had 24 assists on 46 field goals, while the Mavericks had 14 assists from their 31 field goals.

Luka Doncic looked primed for a big game early on, but struggled to score the ball efficiently, finishing with a team-high 20 points on six-of-18 shooting to go with seven turnovers and four assists. The Mavericks had their worst shooting performance of these playoffs at 36 per cent (31-of-86), and 22 per cent from long-range (11-of-48).

Golden State will host Game 2 on Friday, before Game 3 heads to Dallas on Sunday.

Michael Jordan has company at last.

The Chicago Bulls legend was for a long time the only player to average more than 30 points per game in the NBA playoffs, yet Luka Doncic is now writing his own name into the history books in Dallas.

The Mavericks superstar has a long way to go before he can come anywhere close to matching Jordan's achievements, but he has been spectacular in scoring 32.7 points per game through his first four postseason series.

Not only is Jordan (33.4 points per game) the sole player to top Doncic's mark across a playoff career, he alone since 1963-64 joins the former EuroLeague sensation in scoring more than 750 points over his first 23 postseason games (823 for Jordan, 751 for Doncic).

These look to be early steps in a truly great NBA career for Doncic, and he could yet end this season as a champion.

The Slovenian was outgunned taking on the Los Angeles Clippers on his own in the first round in consecutive years, but the Mavericks made bold moves this year – most notably appointing Jason Kidd and trading away Kristaps Porzingis – and are now in the Western Conference Finals.

Although Doncic averaged 32.6 points as the Mavericks beat the Phoenix Suns in the second round, he crucially had help, now surrounded with defense and shooting.

Dallas held the Suns to their three lowest points totals of the season (94 in Game 3, 90 in Game 7, 86 in Game 6), while Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie became the first team-mates to each score 30 points in a Game 7 since Los Angeles Lakers greats Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal against the Sacramento Kings in 2002.

As the tournament heats up, Doncic will need all the assistance he can get – but any Mavericks title run surely depends on their main man being the best player in every series.

That becomes a little tougher when Dallas are faced next with playoff veterans the Golden State Warriors.

This is the 10th year of the Steph-Klay-Draymond Warriors, in which time they have been to five NBA Finals, won three championships and seen off a whole host of superstars.

There are plenty of examples for Doncic to learn from then as he prepares to take on the greatest team of the past decade.

LeBron James (33.0 points per game, 7-15 record)

Ja Morant, who scored 35 points against Golden State in last year's play-in tournament, averaged 38.3 points across three games in the 2022 second round until a knee injury ended his series and, ultimately, the Memphis Grizzlies' season. That is the highest mark posted against the Warriors in the past 10 years, albeit with a limited sample size.

Among those to play 10 or more games, James (33.0 points per game) leads the way. Equally as impressive, the four-time MVP has the most total playoff points versus the Warriors since 2012 (727) – despite spending the bulk of his career in the Eastern Conference.

 

James did score 22 in a Lakers play-in win over the Warriors in 2021, but all of their 22 postseason encounters have come across four Finals series. Unfortunately, while James has excelled, his teams have not fared quite so well.

Prior to Morant's explosion, James accounted for three of the four highest series averages against the Warriors over this period – 35.8 in 2015, 34.0 in 2018 and 33.6 in 2017 – but the Cleveland Cavaliers lost on each occasion. Their one Finals win came in 2016, when James scored 29.7 points per game.

James had a little more help in 2016 – we'll come on to that – and the Cavaliers' various failures perhaps best illustrate the folly of Doncic attempting to take on a super-team alone.

The 51 points James scored in Game 1 in 2018 were the most against the Warriors in a single playoff game in the past 10 years, but he was let down by his team-mates – we're looking at you, J.R. Smith – and Cleveland not only lost that series opener but were then swept.

James Harden (29.8 points per game, 7-16 record)

Harden's playoff career is best known for his repeated failures to get the better of the Warriors, losing all of his four series against Golden State while on the Houston Rockets, yet only James has scored more points in such matchups since 2012 (685).

Counted among Harden's 23 postseason games against the Warriors in the past 10 years – only Iman Shumpert (24) has played more – are three 41-plus-point performances. James alone can top that (five games).

However, Harden has also failed to reach 20 points on five occasions, twice shooting worse than 20 per cent from the field in 2015. Consistency is the key at this time of year, and Harden has not had that.

The Rockets blew their biggest opportunity to make a first Finals since 1995 in 2018, when they led the Warriors 3-2 in the Conference Finals before Chris Paul went down injured. Houston lost Game 6 and Game 7, collapsing dramatically in the first of the two defeats as Harden did not contribute a single fourth-quarter point.

Doncic, unsurprisingly, has never shot worse than 20 per cent in the playoffs, while his best shooting performance (63.2 per cent) came in Game 7 against the Suns and his career-high points total came in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers (46).

Kyrie Irving (27.7 points per game, 5-8 record)

Given Irving was the Cavaliers' second man behind James, it is difficult to draw a direct comparison with Doncic. But the point guard's performances show the sort of levels Dinwiddie or Jalen Brunson may have to reach to beat the Warriors if they are at the top of their game.

Irving's 2015 Finals debut ended in Game 1 when he sustained a fractured kneecap, but he returned in 2016 and played a huge role in the Cavaliers' historic win.

Cleveland were trailing 3-1 heading into Game 5 – a deficit that had never previously been overturned – only for Irving and James each to score 41 points, becoming the first team-mates to both top 40 in a Finals game. Irving shot 70.8 per cent from the field.

As the Cavaliers recovered to win 4-3, with Irving shooting a decisive three late in Game 7, his usage rate was a lofty 30.7 per cent for the series, taking responsibility off James' shoulders. Brunson is the Mavericks' second man, although his usage rate of 29.7 per cent was boosted a little by playing three games without the ball-dominant Doncic.

Damian Lillard (27.6 points per game, 1-12 record)

If nothing else, Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers provide an example of how not to play the Warriors. Only former Blazers team-mate Rodney Hood (0-12) has a worse record in playoff games against Golden State in the past 10 years.

A 43.7 per cent career shooter, Lillard has averaged 38.7 per cent from the field against the Warriors in the postseason. Sure, he has scored 27.6 points, but it has taken him 22.1 field goal attempts per game.

When Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are on the other side of the floor, you cannot afford to be so inefficient. Lillard's sole victory in 2016 came courtesy of his one 40-point performance – while Curry was out injured.

Only Allen Iverson (26.5) and Jordan (25.1) have attempted more field goals per playoff game than Doncic (24.3), so there is definitely scope for the Warriors to profit if he cools off – not that there has been a great deal of evidence to suggest that is likely.

Kawhi Leonard (21.9 points per game, 8-5 record)

The man who has occupied Doncic's playoff nightmares in the previous two seasons surely provides the blueprint for how to enjoy postseason success against the Warriors.

Leonard has played on two of the four teams to eliminate Golden State from the playoffs in the past 10 years; he has not lost a series to the Warriors – missing the entirety of their 4-1 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs in 2018 – and boasts the best winning percentage of any player to face Steve Kerr's winning machine on more than 10 occasions over this period.

The 2019 Finals showed the sort of standard that has been required to get the better of the Warriors in the past decade, with Leonard dominant as the outstanding player on the Toronto Raptors. He led the Raptors in points (171), rebounds (59) and steals (12) versus the Warriors, ranking second in assists (25) and blocks (seven).

 

Doncic made strides on defense over the course of the Suns series, but whether he is capable of such an all-round display is very much up for debate.

It almost feels as though using the Ron Burgundy 'boy, that escalated quickly' GIF would be a little too on the nose.

The NBA Conference semi-finals proved to be just as dramatic as we all hoped, with two of them going all the way to all or nothing Game 7s.

In the East, despite a bit of a comeback once Joel Embiid returned from injury, the Philadelphia 76ers were unable to halt the number one seed Miami Heat, while defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks are also out after going down in Game 7 to the Boston Celtics.

Over in the West, the Golden State Warriors overcame the Memphis Grizzlies in a tempestuous series defined by Ja Morant's knee injury, while a sensational performance from Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks saw them destroy the Phoenix Suns in their own backyard in Game 7 on Sunday.

They may not be the Conference Finals many predicted, but they will be absolutely covered in compelling narratives, so Stats Perform is here to take a look at what should be two fascinating contests to determine this year's NBA finalists.

Eastern Conference Final

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics

Perhaps this pairing was to be expected given they are the one and two seeds respectively in the East, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo in their corner and an NBA championship to defend, many will have expected the Bucks to get the better of Boston.

The Celtics showed their mettle, though, in particular Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 28.3 points per game (PPG) in the postseason.

Tatum's 6.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game are supported by an impressive average of four turnovers as the 24-year-old has set about trying to drag his team all the way.

He has not been alone though, with Jaylen Brown averaging 22.2 PPG, while an unlikely hero emerged in the 109-81 win against the Bucks on Sunday as Grant Williams top-scored with 27, the first time he has done so for the Celtics. Williams hit seven of the Celtics' 22 made three-pointers in an incredible shooting barrage.

 

The Heat took full advantage of an Embiid-less Sixers in the opening games of their series with Philadelphia before losing their 2-0 lead, only to see it out 4-2.

Jimmy Butler shone throughout and is averaging 28.7 PPG in the playoffs so far, as well as 5.4 assists and 7.5 rebounds.

His 32 in Game 6 helped ease any nerves about going to a decider, while even the 40 he managed in defeat in Game 4 made the Sixers work harder than they should have had to.

The Celtics won two of their three meetings with the Heat in the regular season, but Miami were triumphant last time out in late March, winning 106-98 at TD Garden thanks to 24 from Butler and 23 from Kyle Lowry, who may not feature in Game 1.

Lowry injured his hamstring in Game 3 of the Heat’s first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, and is a doubt for the start of this series.

Western Conference Final

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors

Can you stop Luka Doncic, or do you just watch in awe and hope the ball pops before he can score?

That probably won't be the question Steve Kerr and the Warriors will be asking, but they will certainly have to come up with some way of dealing with the dangerous Slovenian.

Doncic is averaging 31.5 PPG from his 10 playoff games so far and was unsurprisingly trending on social media on Sunday as his own personal scoring was such that he was single-handedly matching the Phoenix Suns in the first half at Footprint Center.

His 6.6 assists and 10.1 rebounds per game in the postseason also show how dominant he has been, but that should not take away from the fine work going on elsewhere in Jason Kidd's team.

Having had to carry the Mavericks through most of the first round against the Utah Jazz in Doncic's absence, Jalen Brunson demonstrated his worth with 24 against the Suns in Game 7, while Spencer Dinwiddie posted 30 points of his own too.

 

The Warriors are unsurprisingly just as good at spreading the wealth, even if Stephen Curry – like Doncic – is leading the way with his 26.9 PPG in the playoffs.

The three-point assassin is tied with team-mate Klay Thompson for shots from beyond the arc, with both sinking 42 efforts in the postseason so far, which emphasises the importance of Thompson as well, who has averaged 20.4 PPG.

Jordan Poole is playing his part too with 19.3 PPG, including a 50 per cent success rate on field goal attempts, making 74 from 148.

Dallas may have the upper hand going into this one, not just because of their complete undressing of the Suns in Game 7, but also because they won three of the four games against Golden State in the regular season, with Doncic scoring 41 in their last meeting in early March.

Klay Thompson said it felt "so special" to lead the Golden State Warriors into the Western Conference Finals after the Dubs got the better of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Playing close to his best, Thompson shot 11-of-22 from the field for a 30-point game, nailing eight of 14 attempts from long range in a 110-96 win in Game 6 of the semi-finals.

After clinching the 4-2 series success, the 32-year-old Thompson said it was a joy to be contributing on a high level again.

Major knee and Achilles injuries have seriously disrupted the career of one of the NBA's finest shooting guards, who won championships with the Warriors in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Thompson finished the regular season with four 30-point-plus games in his last six outings, but he had managed just one such high-scoring performance in 10 of the team's postseason games until coming good on Friday night.

Speaking in an on-court ESPN interview, Thompson said: "I just tried to focus on the present, and I was thinking about the last couple of years and what the team has been through and what I personally have been through, and to have another closeout game at Chase Center it gave me butterflies.

"I was nervous all day, but I just had so much fun tonight, and I'm proud of this team for being so resilient."

The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to make 20-plus three-pointers and grab 70-plus rebounds in a single game, regular season or postseason.

Now they wait for the winner of Sunday's Game 7 between the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns.

The Western Conference Finals await, and the Warriors have not reached that stage since 2019, when they went one step further by sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers to reach the NBA Finals.

Thompson suffered an ACL injury in the Game 6 championship series-ending loss to the Toronto Raptors, forcing him to miss the entire next campaign.

His perspective on reaching the latter stages of the playoffs has changed with experience.

"I know that became routine in the 2010s for the Dubs, but that's a special, special opportunity," Thompson said. "We do not take that lightly. We're going to kick our feet up the next couple of days, watch this Suns-Mavs Game 7 and get the popcorn ready, but it's so special.

"I'm going to enjoy tonight, and I'm going to be hungry when that time comes because you can't take it for granted, nothing's guaranteed in sports."

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