DALLAS — After a second-quarter stoppage in play, Luka Doncic of the Mavericks rose from one leg and tossed up a meaningless shot from beyond the 3-point line whose sole purpose appeared to be to entertain Doncic himself. It was a skyscraper, the ball hurtling toward the rafters before plummeting to Earth. It took one hard bounce off the court after which rattled through the ring.
As they waded into Tuesday’s playoff game against the Golden State Warriors, the Mavericks needed to be wondering whether or not they could make shots with any consistency. Their season trusted it.
While Doncic’s circus shot didn’t count, the degree of difficulty was outrageous. (Welcome to Luka’s World.) The gang roared. And for a team on the ropes, it was an indication of excellent things to come back.
A serious comeback can only begin with a modest first step, and Dallas is banking on the hope — nevertheless distant — that its 119-109 win over Golden State on Tuesday night in Game 4 of the N.B.A.’s Western Conference finals is a constructing block for a miracle.
“We’re going to consider until the top,” said Doncic, who made several more conventional shots because the game moved along, ending with 30 points, 14 rebounds and 9 assists. “We got more to do, you already know. That is nothing.”
You might have heard this before, but no team has overcome a three-games-to-none deficit in N.B.A. history. After avoiding elimination, Dallas, which now trails within the series, 3-1, desires to grow to be the primary. Game 5 is on Thursday in San Francisco.
“We wish to do something special,” the Mavericks’ Dorian Finney-Smith said. “It’s going to be very hard, but we are able to do it. We just got to stay together.”
If nothing else, Tuesday’s win was a credit to the Mavericks and their resilient young core. They might have folded up for the season after polluting Game 3 with a buffet of ugly jump shots. Within the loss, they went 13 of 45 from 3-point range. Reggie Bullock missed all 10 of his field-goal attempts.
On Tuesday, the Mavericks shot 20 of 43 from 3-point range, assisted on 30 of their 41 field goals and unboxed a new-and-improved version of Bullock, who made 6 of his 10 3-point attempts.
“It was almost like an ego win,” Golden State’s Stephen Curry said, referring to the Mavericks. “You come out and you actually don’t have anything to lose, in order that confidence began early. We didn’t really do nothing to slow it down, and that’s when the avalanche starts. So it’s a great lesson learned. You tip your hat to them because they made plenty of shots.”
After scuffling through a few injury-marred, playoff-free seasons, Golden State stays one win from its first conference championship since 2019. But throughout the postseason, the team has faltered — a minimum of momentarily — when it has come to eliminating its opponents.
In the primary round, the Denver Nuggets avoided a sweep by defeating Golden State in Game 4. Within the conference semifinals, the Memphis Grizzlies prolonged their series with a 39-point win. For each the Nuggets and the Grizzlies, the reprieve was temporary: Golden State closed out each series in the next game.
May 25, 2022, 6:13 p.m. ET
The Mavericks present a special kind of challenge. For long stretches of Tuesday’s game, Golden State went to a zone defense, which Dallas Coach Jason Kidd took as a compliment.
“Because they will’t play us one-on-one,” he said.
It was an odd game, each somber after which celebratory in its own muted way. It was played hours after a minimum of 19 children and two adults were killed by a gunman at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, about 350 miles southwest of Dallas. At his pregame news conference, Golden State Coach Steve Kerr made an emotional plea for gun control laws, while Kidd declined to reply questions on basketball.
“We’re going to attempt to play the sport,” Kidd said. “We now have no alternative.”
Afterward, Kerr struggled to place the night into any form of palatable context.
“It’s an excessive amount of to fathom, an excessive amount of to grasp,” he said. “We move on and we hope that somebody actually decides to value our residents’ lives greater than they value money and power.”
On a rainy evening, the beginning of the second half was delayed by leaks within the roof. By then, the Mavericks had a 15-point lead and were seeking to construct their momentum.
It was not going to be easy: Golden State has a well-deserved popularity for pulverizing teams coming out of halftime. In truth, through the primary three games of the series, the Warriors had outscored the Mavericks by a complete of 31 points within the third quarter. Kidd was not overly concerned.
“This group doesn’t let anything faze them,” he said.
Sure enough, Dallas shot 8 of 13 from 3-point range within the third quarter to increase its result in 29. Golden State made a late run with its reserves, but fell short.
It’s an obvious statement, but Doncic cannot do it alone — not against Golden State. He definitely tried to do his part in Game 2, when he scored 42, and in Game 3, when he scored 40. The Mavericks lost each.
On Tuesday, he got help from lesser lights like Bullock and Finney-Smith, and even from Maxi Kleber, who got here off the bench to snap his series-long nightmare by shooting 5 of 6 from the sphere.
“In the event that they make shots,” Doncic said, “I feel it’s tough to beat us.”
The Mavericks just have to do more of the identical three more times. No circus shots required.