Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Warriors outlast Mavericks for maybe their biggest regular-season win since Mark Jackson era

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There’s an old saying in sports: “It only takes one.” With a 127-125 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, the visiting Golden State Warriors might’ve gotten the one they so desperately needed to turn the corner toward a postseason run. 

As regular season wins go, they don’t get a whole lot bigger than that for a franchise that has won four of the last eight NBA championships. I would call it, perhaps, their biggest regular-season win since the Mark Jackson era, which was the last time that an honest title-contending Warriors team was in real jeopardy of missing the playoffs this late in the season. 

Make no mistake: The Warriors were, and still are, in legitimate danger of missing out on the postseason. A loss in Dallas would’ve put them on the cusp of the lottery. Instead, the win keeps Golden State above the play-in line and seals the season tiebreaker over the Mavericks, which could prove huge with still just one loss separating these two in the standings. 

Most importantly, the Warriors finally got it done on the road, where they have now won two straight to bring their season away record to a whopping 9-29. This was the exact type of road game the Warriors have found a way to lose rather than win all season. 

The Warriors now head home, where they’ve been arguably the best team in the league this season, for a four-game stretch beginning with a date against Philadelphia on Friday. All told, five of their final eight are slated for Chase Center. Sitting one loss back of the No. 5 Clippers, they now control their own destiny to secure a playoff spot and possibly set up a first-round matchup with the Sacramento Kings

All things considered, that is a pretty good position to be in when the Warriors would’ve fallen near the bottom of the play-in with a loss in Dallas. Again, this was an enormous win. It could swing everything.

Or, it could mean nothing. It’s up to the Warriors to capitalize on this opportunity they’ve given themselves and keep the momentum going. If they can, there are things happening that paint an optimistic postseason picture. 

Stephen Curry was sensational on Wednesday. It wasn’t an impressive scoring night by Curry’s standards: 20 points on 2-of-8 3-point shooting. The 13 assists are what stand out. Dallas was committed to jamming Curry with multiple defenders from the jump, and Curry never once forced his own shot. He was patient all night, getting into the paint and finding teammates all over the court. 

Klay Thompson has been back to his old self for going on three months. Donte DiVincenzo is a rock off the bench, or starting if Andrew Wiggins doesn’t return. Kevon Looney — I mean what can you say? The dude might end up with a statue outside Chase Center. I’m only half-joking about that. 

Gary Payton II is expected back soon, which will be a significant boon to Golden State’s pretty porous perimeter defense in the absence of Wiggins. Jonathan Kuminga has turned into a major weapon as a rolling athlete in tandem with Curry, a pretty reliable 3-point shooter and a big-time defender, as we all witnessed in his full-court hounding of Luka Doncic on Wednesday. 

Anthony Lamb is trustworthy. Jordan Poole can win you a playoff game, if not a series — though he might lose you one, too. JaMychal Green has been incredible in spurts. Draymond is still, largely, Draymond. 

The point is, this Warriors team is far more dangerous than its now their 38-36 record would indicate. They still have to get into the dance, but assuming they do, a game like Wednesday night, in which they didn’t shoot particularly well and didn’t get a huge scoring night from Curry but still found a way to pull through, serves as a loud reminder that the mojo might, in fact, still be there. 

A lot of this still depends on Wiggins. If he comes back, the Warriors are an honest title threat. I believe that. But even if he doesn’t, this isn’t a team that anyone is going to want to play. 

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