The ever-resilient Warriors swallowed the defending Western Conference champions in an avalanche of sound and fourth-quarter 3-pointers Sunday night at Oracle Arena. The 103-99 victory moved Golden State to within one win of the conference semifinals . . . with three games to do it in.
“All we can do now is win one game at a time,” Nowitzki said. “It sounds ridiculous.”
More like tragic. The Mavs leave Northern California for North Texas trailing 3-1 and unless they run off a three-game winning streak, they’ll go down as the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to an eighth seed in a best-of-seven series.
“If there’s a team that can come back and win three in row,” Warriors coach Don Nelson said, “that’s the team that can do it.”
Visions of a championship have been replaced by a dead-eye focus on Game 5, the first true must-win for the Mavs since Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
They lost that one, putting the finishing touches on a four-game collapse to Miami. Losing to a team that needed to win on the last game of the regular season just to get into the playoffs may be more painful.
“The only thing we’re thinking about is winning a home game,” Mavs coach Avery Johnson said.
The Mavs wanted to treat Sunday as a Game 7 and they played as if their season hung in the balance for long stretches. But the Warriors had flashes throughout that swung momentum and ultimately proved the difference.
“We didn’t expect to be down 3-1,” Jerry Stackhouse said. “We felt the early games were going to be a test and by now we would have things figured out.”
The Mavs tried to find their way on Saturday, as Stackhouse and Jason Terry called a team-only meeting. The gist of the no-holds barred session without the coaches: Don’t leave anything in the tank.
Stackhouse, Terry, Howard and Nowitzki all had their shooting spurts, but also made their share of mistakes. The Mavs had 19 turnovers, 11 coming from that foursome, and held leads of nine points in the first, second and third quarter, and seven with 7 minutes left.