The Dallas Mavericks head back to the Bay area Thursday night to play the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors currently lead the series 3-1. Dallas avoided a sweep by winning Tuesday night, 119-109.
Considering how things felt the last week, getting the win on Tuesday is as important as getting to the Conference Finals. It avoids any ugly talk about Dallas getting lucky in the previous series and their defensive performance validated much of what we’ve seen in the playoffs prior to this series.
Still, their backs are firmly against the wall. Like Tuesday, it’s win or go home. The Mavericks are currently seven point underdogs, which says to me that betting folks are pretty sure the Warriors are going to win this one. Here’s some considerations prior to the game.
Rebounding the basketball
We don’t talk much about rebounding around these parts anymore; that’s largely because Dallas has more or less accepted it’s not going to win the rebound battle over the long haul. They don’t have the personnel to do it. However, against the Warriors on Tuesday night, they finally won that statistical category and with it, they won the game.
There’s a pretty strong correlation to Luka Doncic getting double digit rebounds and Dallas winning the game. I don’t know why that is, but my guess would be that as he’s the teams leading rebounder, if he’s grabbing more and pushing the ball the the other team is getting fewer second chance baskets.
How much zone will Dallas see?
Game 4 feels like an aberration, at least in terms of how Golden State played defensively. Dallas shot the ball well and coach Steve Kerr tried some things in the fourth quarter, one of which was zone. The Mavericks attacked it pretty well, only the Warriors pushed and went on a run to close the 29 point lead with their bench unit. It’s a question of how much can we take away from that segment of basketball mattering to the series.
If the Warriors do present a zone, the Mavericks found something as D-Magazine’s Iztok Franko shows here:
Before Game 3 I tweeted how Dallas had problems solving the Warriors zone. They scored 0.824 points per possession vs Zone in Gm3. Last night they were at 1.174— Iztok Franko (@iztok_franko) May 25, 2022
One thing I liked was Brunson on ball and Luka attacking the gaps in one-pass away situations. Here is the 1st play pic.twitter.com/rlnf3yA3HU
If you click that thread, Iztok points out how the Mavericks have found some things which work, only they may have screwed themselves by giving up Game 2. There may not be enough time or margin for error to dig themselves out of this hole.
The Dallas role players and positive regression played a huge part in the Tuesday night win. The Mavericks will obviously need someone to show up the way Reggie Bullock did in Game 2, but more importantly, the Mavericks will need huge games from Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson. Both played well in Game 4, but were inefficient, hitting just 15-of-38 combined. That’s not going to cut it on the road in Game 5.
It’s silly, but the biggest chance the Mavericks have in this game is to simply outshoot the Warriors.
How to watch
You can watch the broadcast on TNT at 8 p.m. CST.