The Dallas Mavericks hit the road to take on the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night.
Dallas has put the league on notice this postseason as Luka Doncic has helped lead them past the Phoenix Suns in the second-round, just four wins away from a berth in the NBA Finals.
During the regular season series, the Mavericks won three of the four matchups, though Klay Thompson missed two of those games for the Warriors. But, as we all know, what happened in the regular season means relatively nothing when it comes to a seven-game series in the playoffs, let alone the Western Conference Finals.
Here’s three things to watch for as the series kicks off tonight.
Attacking Curry and Poole
As you saw in the second-round, the Mavericks picked on Suns guard Chris Paul a lot in the pick-and-roll, giving Luka numerous opportunities to use his size against the smaller, older guard and punish him.
With the success that Dallas had against Paul, look for Kidd and company to implement a similar strategy against the Warriors, this time around going at Steph Curry, and especially Jordan Poole.
What will be different in this series is in the pick-and-roll, it could be Draymond Green stepping up and hedging, which would eliminate the switch onto Curry or Poole. With Green’s size and strength, he presents a different challenge for Doncic opposed a build like the Suns’ Mikal Bridges.
And even when Kevon Looney is on the floor, expect Luka to be licking his chops to get Looney on an island.
But, outside of just Luka, look for Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie to do the same, looking for switches onto Curry and Poole to attack the smaller, less defensive minded guards for their advantage.
Who guards Luka?
I’d imagine Andrew Wiggins gets the first go at Luka to start the game but expect to see numerous guys checking him. Wiggins’ length, size, and athleticism provides the Warriors a primary defender to help attempt to slow down Luka.
Though, the easy answer is Draymond, and he will, but having Green as the free safety of the defense is an important aspect for the Warriors. As stated above, Draymond’s build will help slow down Luka’s ability to use his strength and bully them, like he did to Bridges and Paul in the second-round.
Other options are Klay, though he certainly isn’t the same defender laterally as he was prior to his injuries. Jonathan Kuminga certainly has the size and athleticism to cause Luka some trouble but would you trust a rookie guarding Doncic in the Conference Finals? Not a chance.
As Shaq always says on “Inside the NBA”, his championships were about the ‘others’. For the Mavericks, like they had in the first two rounds against the Jazz and Suns, they’ll need Luka’s running mates to step up to the challenge again.
Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie’s challenge will be to win their matchup against Jordan Poole, who will likely remain as Golden State’s sixth man. Poole has a heater and can score with the best of them, but as we stated above, he can be cooked on the defensive end and JB and Dinwiddie will attack him at will.
And then there’s Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock. They’ve both had huge games in the postseason on both ends of the floor and will need that enhanced even more against Steph and company. Luka’s ability to draw the best defenders from the opposing teams and have the defense collapse onto him in the paint gives DFS and Bullock open hits from the perimeter over and over again. For the Mavericks to win this series, they’ll need all-time performances from their 3-and-D duo.
- Victory Avenue Podcast Episode 44: What’s the Jalen Brunson panic meter at?
- How Jonah Heim is flourishing in his role as the primary catcher for the Rangers
- Victory Avenue Podcast Ep. 43: Christian Wood trade, Mavs take Jaden Hardy, and is JB leaving?
- Silver and Blue Podcast Episode 8: Pre-camp position previews – DT, DE, LB
- Stars reportedly nearing deal with former Knights, Sharks coach Peter Deboer