The Mavericks stunned everyone by not only beating the Suns in Game 7, but also blowing them up.
Their reward? A game against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
The Mavericks were the NBA’s biggest surprise in these NBA Playoffs. They beat the Jazz in the first round despite not having Luka Doncic the entire series and followed that up by knocking out a Suns team that ran away with the league’s best record this season in the second round.
The Warriors, meanwhile, handled their business, beating the Nuggets in five games and the Grizzlies in six games.
The Mavericks will be looking to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2011, while the Warriors will be looking to make their sixth Finals appearance in eight seasons.
Leading up to the Western Conference Finals, our NBA staff members have identified a game to watch and made their pick for the series and new Conference Finals MVP award.
Game between Warriors and Mavericks to watch
Match #1: Luka Doncic against the warrior who defends him
With Gary Payton II out, Andrew Wiggins thinks he’s spending the most time chasing Doncic, but the Mavericks star is as good as he can be at forcing the switches to get the game he wants. That means Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole and even Klay Thompson will likely find themselves defending Doncic on an island a bit in this series.
Doncic proved what he was capable of in Dallas’ second-round loss to Phoenix. He can take a step back whenever he wants. It plays at a hard-to-read rhythm. He has both the size and the skill to separate most players at the position.
I mean, Doncic posted Deandre Ayton on a possession in Game 7. He’s not afraid of anyone.
The Mavericks are going to need Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie to step up again to defeat the Warriors, but it all starts with Doncic.
Match #2: Jalen Brunson vs. Jordan Poole
Brunson and Poole have both elevated their games dramatically this offseason, with late first-round picks emerging as legitimate secondary threats.
There is more pressure on Brunson to deliver given that Poole has Thompson pouring over 20 points per game on the opposite flank and Draymond Green facilitating the offense. But at this point, Poole is the more dangerous rebound creator than either, making his performance vital against a stifling Dallas defense that will do everything in its power to get the ball out of its hands. of Curry.
|1st of the team||Doncic—91.1||Curry — 73.8|
|2nd of the team||Brunson—66.0||Green — 65.0|
|3rd of the team||Kleber — 37.6||Pool — 58.5|
Doncic, meanwhile, has the ball in his hands for nearly 10 minutes per game, by far the most in the NBA in the playoffs. Against the Suns, Brunson was the only Mavs player other than Doncic to average at least 40 touches per game, and if the Warriors sell themselves by deploying an “anyone but Doncic” approach, it will be on Brunson to do so. pay Golden State.
Make no mistake, Doncic and Curry are the most important players in this series. But the second banana battle between Brunson and Poole could ultimately tip the scales in a close series.
Match #3: Draymond Green vs. Shooting a Basketball
As Micah mentioned above, the Mavericks will likely attack Curry defensively and force the ball out of his hands. If he sees a blitz on just about every screen, that means Green will be Curry’s pass on plenty of possessions.
Green is one of the smartest players in the league and has led the Warriors in assists this season, so that’s good for Golden State, right? Well, not if Green continues to refuse to shoot the ball.
In 11 NBA playoff games, Green is averaging 7.8 points on 5.9 field goal attempts per game, the two lowest postseason ratings since his rookie campaign. Green’s defenders challenged him to do something – anything – as a goalscorer.
Just find out what happens on this game from the second round:
Draymond took a dribble into the paint, then pulled out of the attack. pic.twitter.com/BC4d31AWg5
— Steph Noh (@StephNoh) May 14, 2022
No one expects Green to suddenly become Kevin Durant, but he just can’t be that passive against Dallas. The Warriors won’t win this series if they play 4-on-5 consistently.
Warriors vs. Mavericks Expert Picks
As much respect as I have for the Warriors and their battle-tested core, my gut says Mavericks in six games. Luka Doncic is on another level right now, and the Dallas players are firing full throttle from both ends of the court. It’s like the Mavericks caught lightning in a bottle.
The Mavs opened with +200 dogs, which sounds like a combination of public money on the Warriors and a sign of respect for Golden State. I picked Dallas to upset Phoenix in the second round and see no reason to jump ship now against a Warriors team that looked shaky finishing off an understaffed Grizzlies team. More magic for Doncic, who will spearhead a victory for the Mavericks in seven games.
I’ll make it a triple play and take the Mavericks in six games. The Warriors undoubtedly have an experience advantage, but they’re not the same team that has reached five straight NBA Finals. Dallas has the best player in the series in Doncic, and the defensive effort under Jason Kidd has been fantastic.
Western Conference Finals MVP prediction between Warriors and Mavericks
If the Mavericks win, it’s Doncic. And honestly, if the Warriors win, it might still be Doncic. Jerry West won the Finals MVP award after losing the award’s first year of existence in 1969. I could see the same thing playing out for the new Magic Johnson award if the Mavs fell to the Warriors. The only answer for me here is Luka Doncic.
— Micah Adams
MORE: All the details on the new Magic Johnson Trophy
The Mavericks are my pick to win, so the only option to win the top Western Conference Finals MVP award is Luka Doncic. The man enters this series averaging 31.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game in these NBA Playoffs. Time will tell if he can maintain those numbers against the Warriors, but would anyone be surprised if he did? I will not do it.
It’s silly to say anything other than Luka Doncic here. I’m not going to think about that too much.