The question of who will win the Western Conference finals between the Warriors and Dallas Mavericks has a different answer depending on who you ask.
Charles Barkley made his pick during “Inside the NBA” on Sunday after watching the Mavericks’ shocking Game 7 upset over the Phoenix Suns -- and he thinks Dallas is well on its way to another playoff stunner.
But his reason why might surprise you.
“I think the Mavs are going to be better at small ball because of Luka [Dončić]. Nobody can handle that dude one-on-one,” Barkley said. “And if [Jalen] Brunson and [Spencer] Dinwiddie keep playing like they’re playing, this team is going to be tough to beat.
“So I’m going with the upset. I’m going with the Mavs.”
It’s true that the No. 3-seeded Warriors will have their work cut out for them with the No. 4-seeded Mavericks, but Barkley’s assumption that Dallas will prevail when it comes to small ball is questionable at best.
Golden State has been known for its small-ball efficiency not only this postseason but in past years as well, first with the original “Death Lineup” that featured Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala -- a blend of smaller players who were still versatile enough to hold their own against larger opponents.
That strategy was reborn this season as the Warriors’ high-scoring, small-ball lineup of the Splash Brothers, Green, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole decimated the Denver Nuggets during the opening playoff round.
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The Dubs were forced to go big in the semifinal round, however, in order to power past the Memphis Grizzlies and advance, with Kevon Looney stepping up in a huge way to bully and bash his way to a game-saving 22 rebounds against the Ja Morant-less Memphis lineup in Game 6.
And while it remains to be seen how Golden State’s new small-ball lineup will fare against the Mavericks -- if the five see the court together at all -- Barkley would be smart to remember the Warriors’ reputation when it comes to big things coming in small packages.
As far as "nobody" being able to handle Dončić, the Warriors believe they are up for the challenge no matter who's on the floor.