It’s the Dallas Mavericks. It’s the Golden State Warriors.
It’s probably time to pray, too.
The Mavericks will take on the two-time Western Conference champions for the first time this year Wednesday, which means a couple of notable things: Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut return to Golden State for the first time since Dallas acquired them in the summer, and Dallas will get its first look at the new-look Warriors with Kevin Durant joining forces with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Dallas has picked a good time to play some good basketball, which included its first win of the year Sunday, followed up with a strong showing against the young Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday.
But these are the Warriors and it will take an act of God to pull off this upset on a SEGABABA on the road. But here’s what the Mavericks need to do to make it happen:
Control the turnover battle
Dallas can’t afford to give Golden State opportunities to score. This doesn’t necessarily mean the Mavericks need to match the Warriors point-for-point, but playing smart is a good start.
The Mavericks have done a good job keeping the turnovers low. With the exception of a season-high 15 turnovers against Milwaukee, Dallas’ previous high was 12. That’s how they’ve stayed competitive for the better part of this young season.
Golden State, with the shooting it has, can kill Dallas off turnovers. The Mavericks’ defense is good, but continuously shooting themselves in the foot will not matter once Durant, Curry and Thompson begin to let it fly from behind the 3-point line.
Win the rebounding battle
This seems cliche, but the Warriors clearly have seen a drop-off in rebounding production since ridding themselves of Bogut and Barnes.
Old friend Zaza Pachulia is still not the same intimidating presence he was not in Dallas, and can’t be relied upon to carry the rebounding. That duty rests with Durant, who is playing much bigger than he did in Oklahoma City. He’s essentially Golden State’s power forward while second on the team in rebounds per game at 7.3 per game.
Much like the turnover battle, Dallas can’t allow offensive rebounds to this Golden State team. Giving those assassins a second or third chance to make shots, with how good Dallas’ defense has been, will be a recipe for disaster.
Remember: Dallas played Golden State relatively close for three quarters before the Warriors pulled away late in all the other three games last year. Not sure if we should really count the one win where Curry was out, but I digress. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but it’ll still take a near-perfect game to beat the Warriors, given the circumstances.
Trust in Harrison Barnes
Man, you really don’t want to ask too much of Barnes in this spot, but Dallas will need another big game from him if it wants to pull off the upset.
We don’t need to go into extreme detail on how great and refreshing Barnes has been this year, and the world knows this would be the bee’s knees if he could torch the Warriors at least one time and lead Dallas to a win.
To do that, Barnes needs a complete game on both ends. He’ll be asked to take on Durant and maybe Thompson, but his main assignment should be Durant. It’ll be a game he uses more energy than he’s used all year. It’s his toughest test.
But regardless of how he plays tomorrow, he needs to be given credit for what he’s done. If he somehow keeps this game close, then we can hold off on the jokes for a while.
How to watch
As usual, the game will be on FSSW in the DFW area or on NBA League Pass otherwise. Tip-off is at 9:30 p.m. CT.