NBA Film Room: What Could Decide Mavs-Warriors Matchup

Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, NBA, Mavericks vs Warriors
NBA Analysis Network

The Dallas Mavericks are the surprise contender this NBA postseason after taking down the top-seeded Phoenix Suns. Behind star Luka Doncic, the Mavs pulled off a 33-point win in the series’ decisive Game 7.

The Golden State Warriors now stand between Dallas and their first Finals berth since 2011. The Warriors present an extremely different match-up for Dallas than the Suns. The Warriors’ small, quick offense will present a new challenge for Dallas’ defenders.

Meanwhile, the Warriors are coming fresh off a victory over the physical Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies don’t have a three-level star at the level of Luka Doncic, of course.

However, Memphis’s roster of tall wings and three-point shooting bigs is similar to the Dallas supporting cast.

Let’s take a look at two key factors that could decide how this series plays out.

The Warriors’ Pre-Switching

The Golden State Warriors are one of the most switch-happy defenses in the league. Against a star like Luka Doncic though, a switching defense can turn into a hunted defense. Luka is a master at manipulating switches to get his preferred match-up. The way the Warriors will need to combat this is with pre-switching.

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This Dallas team is remarkably similar to the elite Houston teams that battled the Warriors in the late 2010’s. With Harden as the focus on those teams, the Rockets would hunt switches just as Luka does now. To combat this, the Warriors employed pre-switching, as explained in this video.

In that series, Harden was trying to hunt Curry, and you can see how he avoided it. By switching before the screen was set, Curry was able to stay away from Harden and prevent him from getting the match-up he wanted.

If the Warriors are unable to stay ahead of Luka with pre-switches, the end of the game could look familiar for Warriors fans.

Without Gary Payton II, the Warriors don’t have their preferred Luka defender. Due to their switching, the Warriors will need to work to ensure they don’t have their least-preferred Luka defender at his mercy to close games. Keeping the bigger Klay, Wiggins, or Draymond on Luka will be key for the Warriors down the stretch of close games, and pre-switching is the best way they can do that.

The Return of ‘The Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie Show’

In the first three games of the Utah series, Spencer Dinwiddie averaged 19.7 points and 6.7 assists per game. Dinwiddie was attacking relentlessly, punishing Utah’s defense with his ability to get to the rim. In those same games, Jalen Brunson averaged 32 points per game and 5.3 assists, leading the Dallas Mavericks to two wins over Utah – without Luka.

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Brunson and Dinwiddie can’t put those numbers up with Luka on the floor – they won’t have the ball enough. But when they do have the ball, their effectiveness will be key to the Mavericks’ NBA Finals hopes.

Defenses collapse because of Luka Doncic. All five defenders have at least one eye on Luka at all times – and that’s where the Mavs’ supporting stars need to step up. The Mavericks only got 8 points from Brunson in their February win at Golden State – they’ll need more now.

The Warriors’ switching means Brunson will find himself with Curry or Looney on him somewhat frequently. As Golden State focuses on keeping an elite defender on Luka, Brunson will have exploitable match-ups. Brunson demonstrated versatile volume scoring ability against Utah. He’ll have the opportunities again this series and needs to capitalize.

The same goes for Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie is a capable scorer at all three levels and has shown an ability to get buckets with Doncic both on and off the court.

Dinwiddie’s size as a scorer gives him a slight advantage over Brunson, and he can use that against the Golden State Warriors’ small-ball line-ups. As seen above, even when he doesn’t have a path to the rim, Dinwiddie is a threatening scorer.

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Dinwiddie scored 30 in the Dallas Mavericks’ blowout win over Phoenix in Game 7. Dallas will need that same Dinwiddie in this series. Luka can do it all – but the Mavericks will have a much better chance if he doesn’t have to.