Last night, the Dallas Mavericks came into Phoenix for Game 7 and won their first game of the playoffs in Arizona, by a dominating 33 points. What makes this even more crazy is that the Suns had the #1 record in the NBA this season, ranking top 25 all time in records across the NBA’s 75 year history!
The main reason for the Mavericks win was because of their superstar, 4th year phenom, Luka Doncic. We all knew Luka’s greatness all along. He will most likely make his 3rd straight All NBA 1st team appearance, especially because of his 2nd half of the season performance, where he averaged 30 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists while shooting 39% from 3! The 23 year old had 35 points…in 30 minutes of playing time last night. That means Luka had 1.83 points per minute. The leading scorer in the NBA this season was Joel Embiid with almost 31 points per game and he averaged 33 minutes per game. Doncic did something that not even our best scorers can’t do!
The Mavericks also had other key contributors. Despite a lot of controversy earlier in the series about Spencer Dinwiddie’s play, he stepped up big time in Game 7 with 30 points while shooting 5-7 from the 3pt arc. Even though Davis Bertans hasn’t shown many signs of his value since their blockbuster trade, Dinwiddie has. In that move, Dallas gave up one of their best players with Kristaps Porzingis during this year’s NBA trade deadline.
Their matchup this series will possibly be their toughest yet, as the Golden State Warriors look to bounce back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2019, where they lost in 6 to the Raptors, that Stephen A. Smith will say, was because of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson’s major injuries. Despite no KD, the Warriors still have most of the crew they had in 2019, including the Big 3 of Stephen Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green. They also made some key additions since then as well, with Andrew Wiggins who despite some controversy with this move, was named as an All Star starter in 2022!
The Warriors easily have the more talented roster. But who has the better team? Well, I’d say Dallas. Despite Curry on the other side, I say that Doncic is the best player in this series. Knowing that, how can Dallas overcome the rest of the Warriors roster, which has the next 4 best players in this series? Well, it starts with Doncic using his superstar abilities and setting up his teammates. Doncic has only averaged 6.6 assists in the playoffs, which is 2.2 less than his 8.7 assists per game during the regular season. If Doncic can drive to the paint, the 3pt shot will get open, for shooters like Dinwiddie, Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson and even Bertans.
Doncic can also use his ability to drive to the paint and score, since the Warriors only have Kevon Looney to defend the paint after multiple injuries from James Wiseman. Doncic has height, strength and overall abilities to be able to score over bigs. But how can Dallas stop Golden State’s offense? Well, they can’t. Golden State’s offense is not possible to stop. But it is possible to contain! Dallas can use perimeter defenders like Dorian Finney-Smith to guard Wiggins and Thompson, while Powell and Maxi Kleber can guard Green and the paint. But who guards Curry? You put Doncic on Curry!
Before every Mavericks fan freaks out, let me explain. Look at the 2nd round series between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. With Khris Middleton out, they let Giannis average 35 points per game in this series, but didn’t let anyone else beat them. That was their game plan and it worked. Dallas needs to do the same thing. Golden State won Game 6 against Memphis because of ‘Game 6 Klay’, or, because Memphis let an entire group effort beat them. Now, Memphis has no choice since Ja Morant was out but Doncic isn’t out. Let Curry get the points and use perimeter defenders to guard Thompson, Wiggins and Green. Curry may also struggle, which even though the eye test doesn’t say it, Doncic ranked #7 in defensive win shares. At that point, Curry needs to put up too many shots and force himself into uncomfortable situations, where the Mavericks can get easier fast break opportunities and more stops for the #2 ranked defense in basketball!
I predicted all along that Dallas would go to the NBA Finals, just to lose to Boston in 7. And I still think my prediction will be correct. Dallas has the best players in the NBA, and an amazing supporting cast that got them past Phoenix, and will now get past Golden State and advance to their first NBA Finals since 2011!
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