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Sports Illustrated

Stephen Curry, Warriors Telepathy on Display Against Mavs

SAN FRANCISCO – Steph Curry was trapped in the corner, all escape routes and passing lanes cut off, leaving few options, none of them great. Curry being Curry, he chose the highest-degree-of-difficulty play: a no-look, looping, over-the-shoulder pass that could easily have been a turnover but somehow found its way to Draymond Green, back by the midcourt logo.

“Yeah, we work on that play. It’s called Looping Pass 2,” coach Steve Kerr quipped Wednesday night.

“That’s what I do, throw wild passes,” Curry said with a self-effacing grin.

The Warriors being the Warriors, you could almost predict what came next: Green snared the ball and zipped a pass to a sprinting Curry, who caught it, turned, fired and swished a three-pointer, pushing Golden State’s third-quarter lead over the Dallas Mavericks to 17 points.

Some Curry shimmying and grooving ensued, and the Warriors coasted to a 112-87 rout to open the Western Conference finals.

There are no dagger shots in a blowout, but that sequence early in the third quarter came close—exemplifying everything that’s made the Warriors special, and underscoring just how steep the task is for the Mavericks.

Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports

They aren’t just facing a team with three championships, five Finals appearances and three future Hall of Famers; they’re taking on years of shared experience, trust and connectivity, and a wordless bond that borders on telepathy.

“Those guys have a synergy from playing together for a decade,” Kerr said of Curry, Green and Klay Thompson, the core members of the Warriors dynasty. “So there’s a lot of value in that. And Draymond has always been sort of the fulcrum of our offense as a passer, screener. … So that was an example of those guys just knowing each other well, and Draymond knowing exactly what Steph was going to do.”

Given that Curry’s wild pass could easily have sailed into the backcourt for a turnover, you could also fairly say a little luck was involved. But that’s just the thing with these Warriors over the last eight years: It’s often hard to tell where the line is between talent, luck and flat-out magic.

When even the broken plays turn into back-breaking three-pointers, it’s hard to keep pace, especially for a young Dallas team that’s completely new to this stage of the postseason. It was a rough introduction for Luka Dončić, who had a quiet 20 points (on 6-of-18 shooting) in his conference finals debut.

This is the deepest the Mavericks have been in the postseason since 2011, the year they won the title. And this is the deepest any of their current core players have ever been. The experience deficit vs. the Warriors is considerable.

“They’re a championship team; they know what this is about,” Dončić said. “They’ve been through the bad and the good. It’s going to be really tough. But we believe.”

Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors gave the 23-year-old superstar little breathing room, assigning the lengthy Andrew Wiggins to dog him all over the court, sending extra bodies when necessary and keeping him off balance with a variety of defenders and coverages.

Dončić, who scorched the Suns in the second round, left here Wednesday with his lowest point total and worst shooting percentage of this postseason, along with seven turnovers and one nasty scratch across the right side of his face.

“It’s good, makes me look tough,” Dončić said. Of the Warriors’ defense, he said, “They were doing a great job on me, especially in the second half (1 for 6, 2 points, 6 turnovers). But I think I’ve got to be better. That’s on me.”

The Mavericks have now lost Game 1 in every round this postseason and, as ESPN’s Kevin Pelton noted, will try to become just the second team (following last year’s Bucks) to win three straight series after trailing 0-1. Game 2 is here Friday night.

It wasn’t initially a great night for the Warriors’ stars either. Curry missed six of his first seven shots. Thompson went scoreless (0 for 4) in the first half. But the Warriors took a 54-45 lead by halftime anyway, getting their scoring from Wiggins, Jordan Poole and Kevon Looney.

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Then the third quarter came, and the fireworks began. Poole hit a variety of tough jumpers, high bank shots and finger rolls. Thompson caught a rhythm after a fast-break layup, exploding for 11 points in the period. And Curry got on one of those rolls where it seems he can do no wrong—even when it sort of looks like he’s about to do something wrong.

Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

And that’s how the highlight of the night came to be. Dončić and Dorian Finney-Smith had Curry trapped in the corner before he flung that dangerous, over-the-shoulder pass, which nearly missed everyone before Green saved it. As Curry later confessed, it wasn’t even intended for Green. He was trying to hit Looney.

“A long shot pass,” Curry said. “I saw Draymond save it. Sigh of relief on that one.”

But from there, the synergy and telepathy kicked in. After throwing the pass, Curry immediately turned and darted toward the arc. Green’s gaze was fixed on him the entire time. And Looney, seeing Curry coming, set a hard screen that knocked the pursuing Finney-Smith out of the play, giving Curry room to catch, turn and shoot. The entire sequence, from bad pass to good pass to three-pointer, took about four seconds. Timeout. Cue the Curry dance moves.

“Great chemistry, in terms of creating offense that way,” Curry said, “minus the behind-the-head pass.”

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