The Mavericks-Warriors WCF series continues on Friday at 9:00 PM ET.
The 3-seed Warriors went bear hunting and ended up dropping the Grizzlies with a killshot in Game 6 to advance to the WCF. I'm not sure a lot of people picked Dallas to advance, but they stunned the top-seeded Suns in a tough 7-game series, even after being down 0-2.
Strangely enough, both series victors had games in which they would pour it on and other games in which there was a lid on the basket. It'll be interesting to see how this series goes. Since the playoffs began, both teams are equally matched in a number of metrics and both love to employ small-ball lineups. This should be an entertaining series. Let's dive in!
Vets and Experience
GSW has been to six of the last eight WCF with their Big 3 of Curry, Klay, and Green as mainstays. They have experience winning titles and losing titles, i.e. they've been here before and they know good and well that playoff basketball is a different kind of animal. That sort of playoff experience and chemistry leads to quick adjustments and adaptability, which is crucial. Obviously Steph is going to continue to be a 3-point god and Draymond will play his all-around brand of basketball and probably get T'd up at some point. Klay has looked good, but not like the Klay we knew before his ACL/Achilles injuries - some of the offense he used to provide will be picked up by rising star Jordan Poole. The concern with Klay is that his defense is a far cry from what it used to be. Others will have to step up to stop...
Luka has been a bad, bad man in the postseason. He's everyone's Daddy so far. He dumped in 32.5 PPG against the Suns and DPOY finalist Mikal Bridges. The GSW don't have a Mikal Bridges-level defender; it used to be Green, but Father Time has slowed him down a step or two. As good as Andrew Wiggins can be on the defensive end, I'm not confident he will be the stopper either.
Luka is a problem and there are not any clear cut solutions. He will hit from deep or he will methodically get into the paint and break down whoever is guarding him. If the defender is lucky enough to stop him from taking a shot, he can kick it out to Bullock, Finney-Smith, Kleiber, Bertrams, or Dinwiddie for a 3. This collection of gents is 42 percent from there! 42 percent! Simply put, Luka has been unstoppable and I firmly believe he will continue to be against GSW (Game 1 struggles aside), whose best lineups tend to be smaller. Luka + supporting cast showing up = Uh-Oh.
Two Big Stats
There are two team statistics worth noting in this matchup. Dallas draws a shit-ton of fouls. The "Luka penetration/kick out for 3s" offense forces opposing defenses to scramble, which has led to a lot of fouls. On 19% of plays there is a foul called against the Dallas opposition. If the Warriors can't contain, that number is going to go up since they themselves foul on almost 19% of plays. I can only do basic arithmetic but I don't think that bodes well for the GSW.
The other stat is ball security. Dallas does a great job of limiting turnovers and Golden State does not. In the playoffs the Mavs are averaging under 9.5 turns/game and the Warriors are averaging over 15. For a team that has historically been very precise it is frightening to see that many wasted possessions. Dallas has improved their turnover rate in the postseason while Golden State has only gotten worse...bad trend for Chef Curry and the boys.
The Here and Now
At this current point in space-time, I think Luka is the best player on the planet and I wouldn't bet against him. Call me crazy. He's just too damn hard to guard and I think it presents a massive issue for Kerr and the Warriors. He struggled in a Game 1 blowout loss, but he will surely make the necessary adjustments. I realize many of these guys were able to stop LeBron, but I think Kidd has this Mavs team working on a different level so far in the playoffs. I've always put a lot of stock in experience when it comes to playoffs. I think there are a few potentially glaring holes on this GSW squad, though. Dallas will exploit them.
I'd also like to add that the absence of Gary Payton II is a bigger loss than you'd think. He's a tremendous athlete and defender that does a lot of work for the Warriors. So, with all that, I'm taking the Dark Horse Mavs to charge into the Finals after a full 7-game series with a lot of points scored.