Chris Paul

Warriors' logical lineup change doesn't fix issues in loss to Mavs

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SAN FRANCISCO – The Warriors tried their 11th different starting lineup of the season Saturday night, and the decision was logical considering the Warriors were facing the marvelous Luka Dončić.

And, oh yes, his supporting cast, commonly known as the diminished Dallas Mavericks.

But what unfolded over the next 48 minutes were a cold reminder that on most nights, including this one, the fortunes of the Warriors will follow the fortunes of their defense and/or the shooting of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

And for the third consecutive game, Golden State’s defense was too easily punctured and the best-shooting backcourt in NBA history was firing mostly blanks. The result was predictable, a third straight loss, 132-122, before a sellout crowd at Chase Center.

“We haven’t found that grit that every good team needs,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Where you pull together, and you just play for the group. We’re not there yet. And that’s a problem.”

The search for that intangible led to the change in the starting lineup, with rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis replacing Kevon Looney at center, and veteran Chris Paul replacing rookie Brandin Podziemski at guard. The decisions made sense for at least two reasons.

One, Jackson-Davis -- making his first career NBA start -- is a far better matchup against hyperathletic Dallas big man Dereck Lively than either Dario Sarić or Looney.

Two, having Paul at point guard could free Curry and Thompson for the kind of off-ball opportunities that might help them get reacquainted with their accuracy.

“We’re looking for a boost defensively,” Kerr said. “The last couple weeks with the starting group, the defensive numbers really weren’t great. I liked the energy shift that we got from it. But defensively, that lineup wasn’t holding up.

“So, we were looking for better defense from the start – and wanted to get Steph more involved as well. We felt like getting Chris on the floor might unlock Steph a little bit. But the defense struggled all night.”

The lineup change might have worked if not for a stunning array of defensive miscues by a variety of Warriors. Dallas took full advantage, burning Golden State’s attempts to double-team Dončić with skip passes leading to wide-open corner 3s and sharp dimes to rolling big men. Dončić finished with game highs in points with 39, and assists, with 10.

The Mavericks were without starters Kyrie Irving (right heel) and Maxi Kleber (right toe) but missed neither.

With Luka torching a tag-team crew of defenders – seven different Warriors tried to contain the star – the Mavericks led by as much as 16 while shooting 55.7 percent from the field, including 40 percent beyond the arc.

Curry and Thompson, by contrast, had immense difficulty finding buckets.

Curry finished with a team-high 25 points, on 9-of-25 shooting from the field, including 6-of-15 from distance. There were signs of slight recovery, though, as he followed a 3-of-11 first half with a 6-of-14 performance after the break.

Thompson, however, was abysmal throughout and finished with one of the worst performances of his career. After scoring three points on 1-of-11 shooting, including 1-of-6 from deep, he spent most of the fourth quarter on the bench looking disgusted with himself.

The Warriors historically have always had difficulty finding success when both Curry and Thompson were struggling. That’s particularly true if their defense is not good enough to somehow nullify that deficiency.

Curry over the last three games is 19-of-61 from the field, including 11-of-36 from distance. Thompson over that span is 8-of-34, 6-of-22. The Splash Brothers combining to shoot 28.4/29.3 percent during any stretch is an invitation to failure.

And that would be the case for the Warriors no matter what, if any, changes there might be to the starting lineup.

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