The Warriors took the floor Wednesday night in Dallas for a game that, given its magnitude, would reveal what’s inside their hearts and on their minds.
There was, in order, considerable fight and, when it mattered most, plenty of focus.
The payoff was a 127-125 victory over the Mavericks that puts the Warriors one-and-a-half games ahead of Dallas – and, moreover, a season-series win that give them the tie-breaker in case the teams are tied in the standings.
Six players scored in double figures, led by Jonathan Kuminga with 22 points and Stephen Curry with 20. The Warriors posted decisive advantages in both shooting percentage (55.6 to 49.5), rebounding (44-31).
For the first time this season, the Warriors (38-36) won a road game in which they trail after the first quarter.
Here are three observations from triumphant finale of a five-game road trip:
Draymond Green was not Golden State’s leading scorer. Not its leading playmaker. Not its leading rebounder.
But the Warriors don’t win this game without him.
Draymond’s 25 minutes were a tour de force the likes of which few players can achieve. His offense was timely, and his defense carried the impact of two players – one doing the fundamental stuff and the other doing the spectacular.
In addition to scoring 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, Green eight assists, four rebounds, four blocks and three steals – all while battling foul trouble. He was whistled for five fouls.
Draymond was at his best in the fourth quarter, recording three assists on offense and coming up with an impeccably timed block of a Justin Holiday 3-point attempt and a recording a steal that prevented Dallas from taking a 3-point lead inside the final three minutes.
He seemed to be everywhere, and the Mavericks might agree.
Another strong game from Kuminga
Only four games remain on Golden State’s schedule this month, and pardon Kuminga if he sheds a tear when the calendar turns to April.
Kuminga came off the bench and, once again, was terrific. His 22 points came on 9-of-11 shooting from the field, including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc. He also plucked three rebounds and had two steals.
In the meantime, the 20-year-old forward also played a sizable role in Dallas star Luka Dončić shooting 11-of-27 from the field.
Without Kuminga’s production and defense, the Dallas bench would have had an appreciable advantage over Golden State’s reserves.
Kuminga came in averaging 15.4 points per game in March, on 56.8-percent shooting from the field, including 47.8 percent from deep. He is providing tangible reasons why the Warriors believe he has a brilliant future.
Compromised, again, by fouls
Green went to the bench with 8:27 left in the first half with three fouls, one of which – a hard closeout on Dwight Powell forcing a 25-footer under shot-clock pressure – was exceedingly mindless for someone with his smarts.
Golden State’s defensive catalyst was limited to seven minutes in the first half and 25 for the game.
The Mavericks spent most of the second quarter parading to the free-throw line because they were in the penalty. The result? A 17-9 advantage in free throws for the half, a 28-18 disparity for the game.
As they have done so often this season, the Warriors tortured themselves by committing fouls. Yes, some of the whistles were questionable. But most were richly deserved.
This time, they managed to overcome one of their worst habits.