There has been one constant throughout the NBA playoffs so far for the Warriors. Well, at least their opponents have one thing in common.
The Warriors went 1-3 against the Denver Nuggets in the regular season, and beat them in five games in the first round. They were 1-3 vs. the Memphis Grizzlies before beating them in six games in the second round. And their next opponent, the Dallas Mavericks, beat Golden State three out of four times in the regular season as well.
That's good news, right? The Warriors are bound to beat the Mavs in the Western Conference finals, perhaps in seven games to keep the trend going, right? Well, the Warriors and other teams alike have shown us nothing more than the inconsistency and unpredictability of the playoffs.
Look no further than the Mavs' 33-point beatdown of the Phoenix Suns in Game 7 of their second-round matchup Sunday night.
After stepping into the shoes of spectators for a day, the Warriors are back to the drawing board knowing they'll see the Mavs in the Western Conference finals. So, how do they stack up? Let's break it down with a variety of categories.
Reminder: Positions are in flux, especially with these Warriors
Warriors: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, Damion Lee, Moses Moody, Gary Payton II
Mavs: Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson, Spencer Dinwiddie, Frank Ntilinka, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke
To state the obvious, Steph vs. Luka is the battle that will garner all the headlines, and deservedly so. Grab your popcorn, this should be a fun one. But this series really consists of two three-headed monsters from both sides, and backcourt players not named Curry or Doncic could make all the difference.
Thompson turned back the clock and channeled his Game 6 Klay super powers Friday night in the Warriors' win over the Grizzlies, leading the way with 30 points and eight 3-pointers. Poole averaged 26 points the first three games of the last round vs. the Grizzlies, but totaled only 29 over the last three games.
Brunson is due for a big payday in the near future, and after combining to score only 22 points the first two games in Phoenix, he averaged 21.8 the final five games to help take down the Suns. Dinwiddie was one of the best moves in the entire league at the trade deadline, and proved why again in Game 7 with 30 points and five 3-pointers off the bench.
Doncic is slow-mo offensive mix of LeBron James and James Harden, except he differs from the latter by showing up when it matters most. His rise as a superstar definitely is giving Golden State plenty of headaches. The 23-year-old averaged 31.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists vs. the Warriors in the regular season, and is averaging 31.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 6.6 assists this postseason.
Curry in his career has averaged 30/6/6 in the Western Conference finals. His 133 3-pointers in the conference finals are the most ever, as is his plus-176. He'll be locked in for another trip to the NBA Finals, and the best could be yet to come from what has been an underrated postseason.
Payton is listed above, but in pencil and a dull eraser. The Warriors haven't completely ruled him out of the series, though Kerr called it a "long shot" he returns from his fractured left elbow.
Warriors: Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Andre Iguodala, Otto Porter Jr.
Mavs: Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Green
Wiggins' fluctuation of a wild season calls for him to be another key for the Warriors. Once again, he doesn't need to be a star. He needs to fit his role. That's being a strong defensive presence, a rebounder, attacking on both ends and hitting open 3-pointers when presented.
When he does that, the Warriors are really hard to beat. And for the most part, that is exactly what he has done in his first playoff run with Golden State. In the Warriors' Game 6 win over the Grizzlies, Wiggins scored 18 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and made three 3-pointers.
Bingo, that works.
Wiggins averaged 4.5 rebounds per game in the regular season, and only 3.8 against the Mavs. Through 11 games in the playoffs, he's averaging 6.9 rebounds and had six offensive rebounds Friday night to send the Grizzlies home.
The experiment of starting Kuminga appears to be over, but he again could be a pivotal piece and Steve Kerr might even throw him on Doncic for stretches. You never know what you're going to get with Kuminga. Always be ready for something eye-opening.
Porter was ruled out for the final game of the last series with right foot soreness, and his status still is up in the air. Iguodala, who hasn't played in the last three weeks due to a neck issue, is being re-evaluated this Thursday.
Neither of Bullock or Finney-Smith should scare the Warriors much, but the way the Mavs operate with multiple shooters around Doncic, guards and big men also could be categorized as wings.
Warriors: Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, Nemanja Bjelica
Mavs: Dwight Powell, Davis Bertans, Maxi Kleber, Marquese Chriss, Boban Marjanovic
Green is a point-forward who runs the offense much of the time, guards the other team's best player, is a strong safety and a center when the Warriors go small. Bjelica theoretically spaces the floor and can help on the boards, and Looney is the lone traditional big at 6-foot-9 -- one who deserves all the flowers for his 22 rebounds to help close-out Memphis.
His synergy with Green again will be needed, just as it proved to be in getting rid of the Grizzlies.
Wiggins has proven to be viable as a power forward, Kuminga could be placed here and the same goes with Porter when healthy.
Chriss is a former Warrior and Marjanovic is a fan-favorite, though neither plays big roles. Maybe that changes with the Warriors' size disadvantage, maybe not.
Powell was a plus-35 combined in the Mavs' last two wins, Kleber was a plus-54 in the four wins and Bertans, 6-foot-10, shot the ball 23 times in the semis -- all from beyond the 3-point line. He made 11, good for a 47.8 percent clip.
Look for Green to be on a mission this series. He was turnover-happy last round, but came out aggressive and nearly posted a triple-double with 14 points in Game 6. That Draymond is a ton of fun to watch. He'll be needed again, too.
Who Has The Advantage?
The Mavs had the slowest pace in the NBA this season, and the Warriors want to get off to the races. Kidd wants Doncic to be more James than Harden, while the Warriors hope he's more of the latter. Green didn't play in three of the four regular-season games between the two teams, and Thompson was out for two of them.
Kerr, who was missed while being out for three games to COVID-19 last series, has a far more successful playoff career than Mavs coach Jason Kidd. But Kidd, along with assistant Sean Sweeney, has the Mavs' defense locked in and are getting the best out of their young star in Doncic.
Dallas' defense was second in the NBA in the regular season by allowing 104.7 points per game. The Warriors were third at 105.5. In these playoffs, the Mavs lead all Western Conference teams by allowing only 101.9 points per game. The Warriors rank fifth in the West and 11th overall, giving up 110.2 points per game.
Offensively, the Warriors lead all teams with 114.2 points per game. The Mavs are 10th overall at 106.2. But the Warriors also have handed out 15.3 turnovers per game, and the Mavs are turning the ball over only 9.4 times per game.
Both squads have stars and offensive players who can get hot in a hurry. They also have players who will be targets defensively. The Mavs will try to take advantage of Poole on that side and even Curry, though this has been his best season as a defender. Any time Bertans is on the floor, the Warriors will hunt him out and while Brunson is a strong, he is a smaller guard with defensive faults. Doncic isn't exactly a dominant defender, too.
The West finals should be another highly intriguing series for the Warriors. Home-court advantage and extra days of rest should be big for the Warriors. They haven't lost a playoff game at Chase Center yet and hold an NBA record of winning at least one road game in 25 straight series. This is the sixth straight time a healthy combo of Steph, Klay and Draymond have led the Warriors to the West finals.
It'll take a lot to stop them from another date with the Finals.
So, what's my prediction? Let the numbers do the talking, the trend stays alive.
Warriors in seven.