The Dallas Mavericks have grown up before everyone’s eyes over the last few weeks.
Entering the NBA playoffs, some thought they would lose to the Utah Jazz, a team that seemed to have more firepower than them, in the first round.
But Dallas took care of them in six games.
Surely, they didn’t have a real shot in the next round against the Phoenix Suns, the defending conference champs who won an NBA-high 64 games.
But after falling behind in the series 3-2, the Mavericks won the final two games by a total of 60 points, including their Game 7 tornado in which they led by over 40 points at one point.
Now, Luka Doncic and company will take on the Golden State Warriors for a spot in the 2022 NBA Finals.
The Mavericks are being considered prohibitive underdogs, but then again, weren’t they prohibitive underdogs against Phoenix?
Could they possibly pull off another upset?
Dallas Has Been On A Surge For A While
Under new head coach Jason Kidd, who himself helped lead the team to its lone title in 2011, the Mavs were 16-18 just before the start of the new year and looked certifiably mediocre.
But after that, they took off, and defense was a big reason.
Dallas finished the regular season sixth in defensive rating and second in points allowed, and although it ranked towards the bottom of the league in points and dead-last in pace, it was able to win many games by holding its opponents in submission.
Against Phoenix, the Mavs turned the tide by finding lineups that neutralized its greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts offense.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) May 16, 2022
In each of their wins over Chris Paul‘s squad in the Western Conference semifinals, the Mavericks held the Suns to 101 points or less, and in Game 7 they were held to 27 points in the first half.
Many times, an NBA team will reach 27 points with several minutes left in the first quarter of a contest.
Then there is Doncic, who continues to ascend as one of the biggest superstars in the NBA.
By himself, he matched Phoenix’s output in the first half of Game 7 with 27 points, and he finished with 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting and 6-of-11 shooting from 3-point range in 30 minutes.
The Mavs will have the best player on either team in the upcoming series.
Golden State Is No Day At The Beach
But the Warriors will present more of a challenge than the Suns, who in retrospect seem at least a little overrated.
Curry is the game’s greatest shooter ever, and his skill at moving without the ball will require some special attention by Dallas.
For the Mavs to have a shot, not only will Doncic have to be otherworldly just about every night, but his teammates will have to play the best games of their lives.
Jalen Brunson can’t afford to have bad games in this series, such as the 3-of-12 clunker he put up in Game 2 versus Phoenix.
But if he has plenty of performances like the one he had in Game 7 when he went 11-of-19 for 24 points, he will make Curry expend energy trying to guard him while giving Dallas enough offense to keep pace with the Warriors at least some of the time.
It would also do plenty of good for Dallas if it exposes Curry’s lack of size and defense, just as it did with Paul.
— semi (@semiobjective) May 16, 2022
In general, the Warriors simply look a little bit better as a whole than the Mavs.