Luka Doncic impressive in return as Mavericks lose crucial game to Warriors

Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic
Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks lost to the Golden State Warriors 127-125 on Wednesday night. The conference finals rematch was a massive contest as the defending champions secured the season series, a crucial tiebreaker, and moved 1.5 games ahead of the Mavs in the standings. Golden State stayed sixth in the West as Dallas dropped below .500 and slipped into danger of missing the Play-In Tournament.

Luka Doncic returned after missing five straight games with a thigh injury. He had not played since March 8, and the 24-year-old superstar was a bit rusty early on. Luka was making all the plays, but his jumper was off as he missed nine of his first 15 field goals. It did not take Doncic long to find his stride, though.

It was a fantastic game that was back and forth most of the night. The Mavericks' strengths and weaknesses were on display in their most important game of the season, especially with Kyrie Irving out. Here is a closer look at their performance on March 22, including how Doncic did in his return, before taking a glance at what is ahead.

Luka Doncic impressive in return as Mavericks lose a crucial game to the Warriors

There is still no stopping number 77, and he proved that again on March 22. Doncic went for 30 points, 17 assists, seven rebounds, and one steal in 41 minutes of action. He made 11 of his 27 field goals. Luka did go six of ten from the free throw line with five turnovers, but the Mavs outscored the Dubs by two when LD was on the floor.

The Warriors wanted anyone but Doncic to beat them on March 22. They were doubling the Mavericks superstar freely with Kyrie Irving out, and Luka wisely gave up the ball and kept making the right plays. It resulted in 17 dimes and a monster double-double from number 77.

LD always puts on a show too. There was no better shot than him splitting this double team for an incredible finish on Wednesday night.

It was not just Doncic who shined at the American Airlines Center. Rookie Jaden Hardy came off the bench to score 27 points in 25 minutes. He made ten of his 18 from the field, including six 3-pointers. It was the fifth impressive scoring performance in the last six games for the talented 20-year-old.

Hardy shined in the team’s biggest game, and he is making a case for being the team’s sixth man of the present and future. When he gets hot, the 6’4 guard is difficult to stop. Hardy was part of the closing lineup, and he certainly made the Mavs more dynamic on Wednesday night.

The defense was again a problem for the Mavericks. They gave up 96 in the first 36 minutes and another 31 in the fourth on Wednesday night. It felt like an All-Star Game at times. Both teams were trading baskets and putting on a show, but the defensive resistance was not always there. Dallas needs to lock in on that end of the floor if they want to make a deep playoff run in the wide-open Western Conference.

There was a strange play in the third quarter where Golden State got a free basket after there was a question about whose ball it was. The Mavericks were all away from the play and the Warriors took advantage. It ended up being the difference in the team's most important contest of the year. Owner Mark Cuban had this to say after the game.

The Dallas Mavericks have a home-and-home against the Charlotte Hornets over their next two games. Michael Jordan’s team has already been eliminated from contention, and the Mavs need every victory. They must take care of business against the Hornets starting on Friday night at the American Airlines Center, so do not miss it.

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