Jimmy Butler will not require an MRI scan after leaving Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals with knee inflammation, said Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who praised Bam Adebayo for "stabilising" the team in his absence in a 109-103 win over the Boston Celtics.

Butler played 19 minutes in the first half but did not emerge from the locker room for the second at TD Garden.

Yet the Heat were still able to claim a 2-1 lead in the series, a rematch of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals in the NBA Bubble, thanks predominantly to Adebayo.

Adebayo went 15 for 22 from the field as he scored 31 points and added 10 rebounds.

He also had six assists and four steals. The Heat's 19 steals marked a franchise postseason record and the most for any team in a playoff game since 2015.

Having produced 32 and 27-point games against the Celtics in the bubble, Adebayo's three-highest scoring playoff performances have now all come versus Boston.

"He did his version of what Jimmy does in terms of 'do what's necessary for the game,'" Spoelstra told a media conference of Adebayo, who finished plus-17 in the plus-minus.

"He was extremely assertive, it happened in a lot of moments that were fully in the context of how we want to play. He was just way more assertive on the catch and those moments in between. 

"It wasn't just the scoring, that's what everybody is going to recognise but he did so many things in terms of getting us organised, facilitating, playing point guard for us at times, running offense in the post through him and then defending as he always does one through five against a team that presents a lot of challenges.

"He's a winning player. He really is the heart and soul of our group, you can count on him all the time, he doesn't get caught up in all the noise, he's just out there competing, playing winning basketball, doing it on both ends and doing what is necessary.

"When Jimmy was out in the second half he just stabilised us. It got a little bit gnarly out there and when it did we were able to get the ball to Bam and just get something coherent."

The Miami Heat warded off a gritty fightback from the Boston Celtics to win 109-103 on Saturday, reclaiming home-court advantage and taking out Game 3 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics were down by 26 points in the first half and clawed their way back to make it a one-possession game down the stretch, but clutch baskets from Max Strus and Bam Adebayo were able to halt momentum.

Erik Spoelstra's side eventually saw the game out from the free-throw line.

With Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro off injured in the second half, Adebayo finished with 31 points on 15-of-22 shooting, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals in a big performance.

Jaylen Brown led the late charge for the Celtics, scoring a game-high 40 points off 14-of-20 shooting from the floor, but turnovers were critical as the team failed to take care of the ball.

Brown was responsible for seven of his own while Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart combined for 10 with the Celtics committing 23 turnovers.

Boston shot 37.5 per cent from three-point range but following a 39-14 first quarter, were facing an uphill battle.

The Heat scored 33 points off those turnovers in contrast to Boston's nine points, with double-digit margins for points in the paint (48-34) and bench points (26-16).

Butler came up with eight points and three rebounds as well as two assists and steals, but knee inflammation saw him miss the second half. 

Kyle Lowry's return to the floor was pivotal for the Heat, however, finishing with 11 points, six assists and four steals.

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 NBA All-Defensive teams were released on Friday, headlined by Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Marcus Smart and reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the First Team.

Joining that pair on the First Team is Phoenix Suns wing and DPOY runner-up Mikal Bridges, the Utah Jazz's three-time DPOY-winning center Rudy Gobert, and the Memphis Grizzlies' league-leading shot-blocker Jaren Jackson Jr.

It is Gobert's sixth consecutive First Team appearance, and Antetokounmpo's fourth consecutive, while also having one Second Team selection in 2017.

Marcus Smart now has three First Team selections after making it in 2019 and 2020, and it was the first of what will likely be numerous defensive honours for both Bridges, aged 25, and Jackson, 22.

The Second Team is made up of Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, Boston Celtics big-man Robert Williams III, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday and Philadelphia 76ers defensive specialist Matisse Thybulle.

It is Green's seventh All-Defensive honour since 2015, with four First Teams (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2021) and now three Second Teams (2018, 2019 and now 2022). 

For Holiday, it is his fourth All-Defensive selection overall, with First Teams in 2018 and 2021, and another Second Team in 2019.

Adebayo has now made the Second Team for three consecutive years, and is yet to break into the First Team, while Thybulle made his second straight Second Team, and it was Williams' first award after being drafted in 2018, 23 selections after Memphis' Jackson.

Jimmy Butler said the Boston Celtics "whipped our tail on our home floor" in their 127-102 beatdown of the Miami Heat in Game 2.

The return of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart from a foot injury ignited the Celtics on the offensive end just as much as defensively, with the team hitting a red-hot 20-of-40 from three-point range.

Boston's five that played at least 30 minutes – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams, Al Horford and Smart – shot 17-of-29 from long-range, and combined for 23 assists, which was two more than Miami had as a team.

Speaking to post-game media, Butler said the Celtics "tried to embarrass us", but pointed out that they were always going to be facing an uphill battle against such an outlier shooting performance.

"You do have to move on, but I don't like to move on from this. It has to hurt," he said.

"They tried to embarrass us – they did embarrass us. I think we got to realise that, or use it as fuel, but realise that the game can get out of hand when you're playing against a really good team like them that can score the ball and get stops.

"They made shots that they missed last game. That's just what it is.

"It's going to be hard to beat anybody when they shoot 50 per cent from the field and 50 per cent from three. They were the more physical team overall, and they got one on the road.

"Overall, we just have to be better. We've got a tough job to do to go over there and win, but if they did it, we can do it as well."

He added: "I look at it as 'it can't get too much worse'. They whipped our tail on our home floor.

"I guess if they do it on their home floor it's supposed to happen, but I don't see us doing that again. 

"The first half has been brutal for us in both of these games, we just got to come out and play harder from the jump and be ready, because they be throwing some haymakers in the first half."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he did not feel like his side played poorly – but that it felt like the Celtics wanted revenge for Game 1.

"You definitely have to credit Boston," he said. "It's not just that they came in with great urgency and physicality – they did have that, for sure – they also played well. They played really well on both ends.

"We know what they're capable of defensively – they've done this to some very good offenses. I'm sure they were not happy with us putting up 118 in Game 1, and they came out very disruptive. 

"They got us out of our normal rhythm and flow, and the shot-making on the other end was very tough to overcome.

"You get to this point – in the Conference Finals – you just have very good teams. Teams without many weaknesses, it's great competition.

"This only counts as one, and that's what the experiences players and staff in the locker room understand. We don't like it, but they played extremely well."

Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka believes his side responded well to being "punked" by the Miami Heat, claiming a 127-102 win in Game 2 of their playoff series on Thursday.

A 39-14 third quarter in the Heat's favour effectively decided Game 1 as the Celtics collapsed on the road, but bounced back, cutting down turnovers and putting four quarters together to split the first two games in Miami.

Marcus Smart and Al Horford's returns to the line-up were critical for the Celtics as they claimed home-court advantage against the Eastern Conference's first seed, but it was a collective effort with 28 assists off 43 made field goals.

Udoka praised his side's mental toughness in responding against a side that came at them in the opening game of the series.

"I think we were upset with how that third quarter went, specifically how we got out-toughed," Udoka said post-match. "Wasn't a lot of schemes or defensive or offensive changes, they just came at us and kind of punked us in that third quarter.

"We looked the other three quarters and how well we had done in winning those quarters, and knew if we just matched their physicality, we could be better. It kind of reminded us of Milwaukee a little bit – the first game – and didn't want to get caught off-guard again.

"I think our guys have bounced back really well all year, especially the second half of the year. Haven't lost two games in a row in a while, and obviously having Marcus and Al back gave us a little boost as well."

Smart was an important figure in his return from a foot injury, filling the stats sheet and finishing with 24 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and three steals.

Horford provided a little bit of everything meanwhile, ending the game with 10 points, three assists and rebounds as well as a steal and a block.

Udoka commended the returning duo, allowing the team to capitalise on positive aspects from the first game.

"It was great to have the vets back, obviously," he said. "A calming presence there. We didn't get off to our best start, we were a little slow to start but we fought right back into it.

"After, I guess, the first five or six minutes we held them down scoring-wise, but it was a good overall effort. I felt we didn't play as poorly as the last game showed.

"Like I said, we won three quarters and had a very bad third quarter, it was hard to overcome but we saw a lot of positives and areas we could attack."

The Boston Celtics rebounded from a disappointing Game 1 to thrash the Miami Heat 127-102 in Game 2 on Thursday.

With the win, the Celtics have tied the series at 1-1 and snatched home-court advantage, with Game 3 and Game 4 to take place in Boston.

In arguably their best half of the season, the Celtics were nearly flawless to open the game, shooting nine-of-11 from three-point range in the first quarter on the way to putting up two consecutive 35-point frames, leading 70-45 at half-time.

The Heat threatened to make things interesting in the third period as Jimmy Butler piled on 16 of his game-high 29 points but the Celtics had an answer every time, shooting 20-of-40 from three for the contest, including 17-of-29 from the five Boston players to play more than 30 minutes each.

Jayson Tatum finished with a team-high 27 points on eight-of-13 shooting with five rebounds and five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart had 24 on eight-of-22 shooting with nine rebounds, 12 assists and three steals.

Jaylen Brown chipped in an efficient 24 points on nine-of-17 shooting, and Grant Williams was excellent once again for the Celtics with 19 points off the bench, shooting five-of-seven from the field, and was +37 in plus/minus over his 32 minutes. Only Payton Pritchard finished with a higher plus/minus, finishing plus +39 in his 23 minutes, scoring 10 points with two assists in Derrick White's absence.

After dominating the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics, averaging over 20 points per game on 60 per cent shooting, Bam Adebayo had his second straight disappointing showing. After posting 10 points and four rebounds in Game 1, he followed it up with just six points and nine rebounds. 

Adebayo is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in the playoffs thus far, significantly down from his season averages of 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Jamaica’s basketball community is mourning the passing of Enid Sterling Angus, who died early Thursday morning in Florida at the age of 64.

Suffering from late-stage cancer, Sterling-Angus was on life support in a Forida hospital up until Wednesday evening when she was taken off and transitioned mere hours later leaving a massive void in Jamaica’s basketball fraternity.

For more than three decades, Sterling-Angus gave yeoman service to the sport was introduced to by chance but which she grew to love.

“I stumbled on the sport while in high school over 30 years ago. I was hanging around the stadium courts one afternoon after playing in a netball tournament there, and a friend who was a member of the Aqua Youth Swim Club invited me to join her at the Stadium pools,” she said during an interview in 2016.

“Later that evening we went back to the netball/basketball courts where the Aqua men’s team was playing in the Berger Paint league game, which is now called the National Basketball League (NBL), and I’ve been hooked ever since then.

“Ironically, I’m still not a swimmer; in fact, I’m still petrified of large pools of water. And even though I no longer reside in Jamaica, I still support the organization because I believe in their objective, which ultimately is to empower our youngsters by providing academic and athletic opportunities through scholarship.”

And support she did. She was a past vice president of overseas operations for the Jamaica Basketball Association and worked tirelessly behind the scenes providing support for Jamaica’s men’s and women’s teams.

AS a project manager for JABA, she handled logistics and planning for national teams and identified players for all national levels. She also funded national teams and youth-team initiatives and helped create scholarship opportunities for both male and female players including players like netball turned basketball player Marvadene ‘Bubbles’ Anderson, who once held the record of being the tallest teenager in the world.

Her death leaves a void within the fraternity, said JABA President Paulton Gordon.

“The Jamaica basketball community is indeed saddened by the passing of Enid Sterling Angus, a longstanding advocate and supporter of the development of basketball in Jamaica,” Gordon told Sportsmax.TV on Thursday.

“Enid was a passionate soul who loved the game and endeavoured to create platforms for our young people to access opportunities based on their God-given talent. She served as one of the overseas liaison between Jamaica basketball and key stakeholders at the FIBA and diaspora levels and was always integral in clarifying policy, rules and processes when our teams are involved in regional or international competitions.

“Enid will be sadly missed and the Jamaica basketball association uses this medium to express our deepest condolences to her immediate family and friends.”

Ajani Williams, who was JABA president between 2009 and 2014, said Enid’s impact on Jamaica’s basketball was iconic.

“Enid Angus is the definition of love of people through sport. She emptied herself in pursuit of advancing the lives of young Jamaican students and national team athletes, male and female, she squeezed every bit of the juice out of the orange for national progress through basketball,” he said.

“An African proverb says when an elder transitions a library goes with them and this is indicative of Enid’s passing. This is a big loss to basketball in Jamaica and, personally, without Enid by my side, many of the national team successes we achieved would not have happened- she is forever a teammate.”

Under Williams’ leadership, Jamaica were CARICOM Champions in 2009 and were the bronze medallists in 2011. The team won the bronze medal at the Centro Basketball Tournament in 2012, the first time Jamaica was achieving top-four, which meant they qualified for the FIBA Tournament of the Americas.

In 2013, at the FIBA Tournament of the Americas, Jamaica defeated the number nine ranked Brazil and the number-three ranked Argentina and just missed out on qualifying for the World Championships.

“The foundation of all of that was aided and supported by Enid,” Williams said.

In addition to her support of the JABA, Enid was a mentor to many Jamaican players like Kimani Ffriend, who played in the NBA and in Europe, winning the MVP title in the Serbian League in 2017. News of her passing was devastating.

“We lost a beautiful soul this morning. Enid, thank you for your warm spirit and beautiful heart,” he said in a post on social media.

“Never told me no. Always there to support me and encourage me during my toughest times. Many don’t know the sacrifices that you have made to help put Jamaica basketball on the map and the countless high school, college and pro players you have helped and identified along the way.”

Another former national representative Vashil Fernandez was in disbelief.

“Can’t believe this. Wow,” he posted while commenting on Ffriend’s post.

Meanwhile, former Women’s coach Oberon Pitterson-Nattie was saddened by the news.

“Sad to know she is no longer with it. She worked tirelessly for Jamaica basketball. May her beautiful soul rest in peace.”

Sterling Angus is survived by her three children, Martin, Terry and Donielle.

 

 

 

 

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.

The NBA All-Rookie teams were unveiled on Wednesday, headlined by Rookie of the Year finalists Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley and winner Scottie Barnes in the All-Rookie First Team.

Joining the trio – who were all unanimous selections – on the First Team were Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner and Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green.

Cunningham, Green, Mobley and Barnes were the first four picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, while Wagner was the eighth selection.

They were also the only five rookies to average at least 15 points per game this season, putting a gap between themselves and sixth-highest scorer Chris Duarte at 13.1 points per game. It is the first time since at least 1985 that all five members of the All-Rookie First Team have each averaged at least 15 points per game.

The All-Rookie Second Team was made up of first-rounders Josh Giddey (sixth selection), Duarte (13th selection) and Bones Hyland (26th), as well as a pair of second-round picks in Herb Jones (35th) and Ayo Dosunmu (38th).

Orlando will have the number one pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and then the Rockets.

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.

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