The one thing to be unequivocally said of the Warriors after two successful rounds in the playoffs is that they reinforced the traditional NBA belief that the regular season bears no resemblance to the postseason.
After losing three of four games against Denver in the regular season, the Warriors won four of five in the first round of the playoffs.
After losing three of four against Memphis in the regular season, the Warriors defeated the Grizzlies four of six times in the Western Conference semifinals.
Golden State lost three of four games against Dallas in the regular season.
Which doesn’t indicate the Warriors will roast the Mavericks in the Western Conference finals beginning Wednesday at Chase Center. What it means, rather, is the regular-season record is unrelated to the 0-0 record the teams bring into Game 1 Wednesday night at Chase Center.
This will be an immensely challenging series.
The Warriors surely heard the warning shot on Sunday. The Mavericks swaggered into Phoenix for Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals like a pack of starving underdogs and devoured the Suns as if they were damp kibble. The fourth quarter was a matter of routine cruelty. The 123-90 victory in the desert left Suns fans booing through their sadness and shock before scampering in disgust out of the Footprint Center.
Those fans in Phoenix had such hope. The Suns were the overall No. 1 seed, earning that status by posting the best regular-season record (64-18) in the league. They’d beaten the Mavericks three times, by a combined total of 23 points. There was no fourth game between the teams.
“Phoenix has had an amazing regular season and made The Finals last year,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Sunday several hours before the Suns and Mavericks tipped off. “They’ve clearly been the class of the West.”
The Suns, like the Grizzlies and Nuggets, were reminded that the regular season and the postseason are different beasts.
What was apparent before the Phoenix-Dallas series was resoundingly so during it. There is only one way to slow the Mavericks, and that’s by containing Luka Doncic.
“With Luka,” Kerr said, “we’re watching one of the great players in the league come into his own.”
The plan will come from the minds of assistant coaches Mike Brown and Ron Adams. The deployment of personnel will begin with Andrew Wiggins and proceed from there.
Slowing the Mavericks, containing Luka, is not necessarily enough to beat them.
That’s because Dallas is playing spectacular defense. Under head coach Jason Kidd and assistant Sean Sweeney – who specializes in defense – they somehow got something from this particular team that eluded the franchise through nearly a quarter century under coaches Don Nelson, Avery Johnson and Rick Carlisle.
Suns-Mavericks Game 7 on Sunday was over when Phoenix was limited to 27 points in the first half. Moreover, Dallas held the Suns to 176 points in Games 6 and 7.
Phoenix, which averaged 114.8 points per game in the regular season, averaged 92.8 in the four games it lost. The Suns were locked up.
It’s a different game now, which is why Warriors-Mavericks has such an element of mystery. Nothing about the postseason is more delightful.