Re: Round 1: (1) Mavericks vs (8) Warriors Thread:
Mavs-GS: A Pre-Pre-Preview
By Mike Fisher - DallasBasketball.com
Tuesday night's game was the Warriors' focus. The Mavs are focused on something else. Ten things you need to know about the upcoming NBA Playoffs, Round 1, especially as it relates to Dallas and Golden State:
10) Golden State keeps beating Dallas this year -- including Tuesday's Game 81 decision in Oakland by a 111-82 score, but ... The circumstances of those outcomes is probably worth noting. In the opening week of the season, the Warriors won in Dallas, 107-104. That was part of the Mavs' 0-4 start (when, it can be argued, the Mavs weren't yet these Mavs). The Warriors won again on March 12 in Oakland, as they ended the Mavs' 16-game winning streak with a lopsided 117-100 decision. Of course, that game was the second night of a back-to-back, right after the Mavs hurdled an at-the-time more important psychological obstacle by winning at the Lakers, 108-72. Meanwhile, Nellie so pointed toward trying to win the March 12 game that he purposely sat PG Baron Davis just to make sure he was healthy for the high-profile grudge match with Dallas.
And then there was Tuesday. Coach Avery Johnson, sticking with the plan installed two weeks ago, placed Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Erick Dampier and Jerry Stackhouse on the Street Clothes List. Part of the plan: Simply survive this meaningless outing while preparing to use the Wednesday regular-season finale at Seattle as the "dress rehearsal.''
"If we were going to play Seattle tonight and Golden State tomorrow, the plan would still be the same,'' Avery said. In other words, Dallas really didn't care that it played Golden State. At the same time, Golden State cared very much about this one.
"It is definitely the biggest game of the season for us,'' said Mavs-turned-Warriors coach Don Nelson before tipoff.
Nellie and the Warriors got their way, recording a victory that should vault Golden State into the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. (The most likely scenario on Wednesday night: The Lakers beat the Kings and the Warriors beat Portland, making those winners, respectively, the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds. See DB.com Boards for more detail and discussion)
Let the record show that if the Warriors make the postseason, they did it in part on the strength of having topped the NBA's No. 1 team not once, not twice, but in all three meetings. The Warriors were the only team to sweep the Mavs this season.
Losses are losses. And 0-3 is 0-3. But as far as the Mavs are concerned, they don't count toward anything this weekend.
"They should be the favorites because of the way they beat us, right?" Avery said.
Well, no. The WAY the Warriors have won, when you look closely, actually undercuts their chances.
9) Golden State was beating Dallas LAST YEAR, too, but. ... I know, I know. Too many buts and we sound like Alibi Ikes. (That's an old baseball term. Ask your granddad.) Golden State was 3-1 last year vs. the Mavs. They've won five straight. And six of the last seven. At some point this becomes meaningful, right?
It might be more meaningful if all the outcomes were being steered by the same coach, or by the same players. But Golden State's wins last year were overseen by Mike Montgomery, Nellie's predecessor. The 2005-06 wins were accomplished by one roster. This year's November win was achieved by another roster. And the two-post-trade-deadline wins are the work of yet another roster morph, this one adding big man Al Harrington and kooky athlete Stephen Jackson to the mix.
So there is very little consistency in how Golden State has recently handled Dallas. ... except the final scores. They've been pretty consistent.
The point is this: THIS Mavs team, at its peak, and THIS Warriors team at its peak, really haven't played each other at all.
8) The Warriors stink defensively. It cannot be ignored that in the last two years, when Golden State plays the Mavs, the Warriors generally find a way to score 107 or so points. Coach Don Nelson specializes in re-making mediocre clubs with a pedal-to-the-metal approach -- as Mavs fans know so well and should be appreciative of -- and the offensive-minded pace feeds the stat-sheet-filling and star-making that marks Nellie teams.
However, there is an addendum to all the neat offensive numbers, the league-leading 20 fast-break points per game, the league-leading 19 forced turnovers per game. ... Golden State also COMMITS the most turnovers of any NBA team. Golden State also ALLOWS a league-worst 107 points per game.
The rat-a-tat pace is genius, because it covers up the Warriors' flaws. They fly around, forcing turnovers, committing turnovers, scoring points, giving up points, all at a very even rate. As even as a team that should finish right around 41-41 or 42-40 would figure to be.
7) The Mavs WANT to play the Warriors -- or at least, wanted to send a message that stated that. The Mavs could've opted to pour effort into Tuesday's game in order to send a "we-will-dominate'' message. (Which, in fairness, might've backfired had GS's best beat Dallas' best.) Or even to attempt to lessen GS's chances of advancing to the NBA Playoffs and being that No. 8 seed scheduled to duel Dallas at No. 1.
Instead, the crafty Dallas message was this: We're gonna do OUR thing. And if that means the chips fall in a way that brings Nellie and the Warriors to Dallas for a Round 1 matchup this weekend. ...
Therefore, the Mavs' starting lineup: Moe Ager, Greg Buckner, Devean George, JJ Barea and 'Gana Diop. (Token appearances were made by Terry and Harris in what is a very odd boxscore.) The featured player, in a sense, was first-round rookie Moe Ager. And while he scored 20, let the record show that the peanut gallery is unimpressed.
Meanwhile, most of the talent core of the Mavs sat on the bench, dressed in dark suits as if they were attending a funeral. (Which they kinda were.) Except for Stack, that is; his white suit made him look like the guy who was delivering ice cream to the funeral.
6) SmallBall vs. AllBall. It's cute, and it's titilating, and we know it well: A 6-9 center surrounded by a gaggle of 6-5 swingmen and it's Nellie's "SmallBall'' and it can give you fits and. ...
Avery Johnson can play SmallBall, too. He can opt to not ask Dampier and Diop to chase around Nellie's mobile "center'' Harrington. He can put Dirk at center and surround him with a gaggle of 6-5'ers. And we'll see who gets to 115 points first.
Avery can dictate. He can start Devean George and set him up inside. He can start a conventional center and pound away at the smaller Warriors. He can control the pace and make it a half-court game. His team can essentially do it all.
I'm betting on the latter strategy. I'm betting GS doesn't get to 107 very often.
I'm also looking to patent the phrase "SmallBall vs. AllBall.''
Re: Round 1: (1) Mavericks vs (8) Warriors Thread:
5) The Warriors are Suns-like in one sense: They've got to shoot the lights out. Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson are gifted but erratic. This team has its turnover problem. It shows its immaturity at the free-throw line (last time I checked, GS was 28th in the league in FTs). It has problems with shot selection; the Warriors lead the NBA in 3-point attempts.
I've long said that if Phoenix somehow shoots 55 percent in a series of games, it will win that series -- but shooting 55 percent in the playoffs in four out of seven outings (and to win a title, in 16 of 28 games) is a tall order. Golden State is in a similar place, structured in a similar way. Are the Warriors going to shoot 55 percent against the Mavs in four of seven games?
4) Golden State is likely to suffer from a common playoff malady: They'll Do The Tighten-Up. I know everyone thinks that Nellie is the king of the loosey-goosey approach, that it's all going to be about bar napkins and BBQ stains and bizarre strategies.
"I'll smoke a cigar, drink scotch and form my game plan," Nellie said of Mavs-vs-Warriors in the postseason. "The more scotch I drink, the better the game plan gets."
Funny stuff. But in terms of practical application, it hasn't worked that way for Don Nelson. In his last three seasons in a previous Golden State life, he made the playoff twice with 50-win underdogs -- and he went 1-3 and 0-3 as he was immediately eliminated.
Additionally, his reputation as a free-wheeling, let-it-all-hang-out avuncular leader is not completely accurate.
Remember the 2002 Playoffs? Conference Semi-Finals? Mavs vs. Sacto? The conventional wisdom was that the underdog Mavs had nothing to lose against traditional power Sacto, and that therefore Dallas would play loose. Instead, with the series tied 1-1, Games 3 and 4 in Dallas featured Nelson calling a set play on virtually every possession, a slow-down approach to offense, and an eat-up-the-clock mindset every time he got a lead.
The scores were still high-flying (125-119 and 115-113) but deceptively so, in the sense that Don Nelson very much had two hands on the wheel -- and maybe 10 white knuckles.
Listen, I love my Uncle Nellie. Part of me thinks the Mavs like him, too. ... so much so that on Tuesday night they handed him a gift-wrapped playoff berth.
But this weekend, Golden State's hands may be too occupied, and too white-knuckled, to even untie the bow.
3) Golden State is also likely to suffer from another common playoff malady: They'll Be A 'Happy-To-Be-Here' Team. How long ago was it when GS last made the playoffs? It was the 1993-94 Warriors, and two of their key players were Avery Johnson (who has grown up to be quite a suit) and Chris Mullin (a suit in Oakland as the team GM). Nellie was the head coach of that team. A fella named Gregg Popovich was an assistant.
Nellie did a great, COY-caliber job with the Warriors this year. He did it by using all his old "We couldn't beat the Pismo Beach Panthers'' tricks. In fact, it was just over a month or so ago that Uncle Nellie pronounced his team "out of it,'' and started grumbling about his possible re-retirement. Sure, it was all a psychological game. But he's spent most of the year telling a mediocre team that they're mediocre.
And now suddenly they're supposed to rise up and beat the best team in basketball?
More likely is that the Warriors will celebrate a rare appearance in the postseason.
Said Stackhouse: For Nellie to have this team back to playoff-level contention, they're ecstatic about that."
OK, I take it back. This won't be a "Happy-To-Be-Here'' Team. It'll be an "Ecstatic-To-Be-Here'' Team.
2) Who is Mr. Big Shot? Jason Richardson has certainly been that guy in so many recent Dallas-Golden State games. He is an explosive talent, from the arc, at the rim, and in the clutch. (Like Baron Davis -- a poing guard who is probably GS's best post-up guy -- Richardson fits in with Nellie because he deceives with unorthodox abilities.) But in a game that means EVERYTHING (at least until the next game), do you not like Devean George, Devin Harris and Josh Howard taking turns against J-Rich?
Meanwhile, that March 12 game notwithstanding, what long-term, full-series answer will Golden State have for Dirk? There are other matchup edges for Dallas, but it can start and end there: The Mavs, personnel-wise, seem to have more weapons to combat Richardson than the Warriors have to combat Nowitzki.
Really, Dallas simply needs a reversal of fortune from a March 23, 2006 game that in many ways set the tone for the recent series. Dirk scored 51. But Richardson nailed an unlikely buzzer-beater to get to 40 -- and to give his Warriors a 122-121 victory.
1) The season is so long. ... last June seems so long ago. ... but remember? The Mavs do remember. They remember climbing the mountain, right to the top, in Miami. ... a two-and-7/8th-game lead. ... and then stumbling at the precipice and tumbling all the way back down the hill. Every hour of practice, every quarter, every half, every game, every week, every month, has been about getting back to this point. Game 1 this weekend against Golden State (or whomever) has been almost a year in the waiting, almost a year in the making.
Maybe Golden State's success against the Mavs helps the Warriors' confidence. But at the same time, maybe it has intensified Dallas' desires. As Nellie said, "I'm worried. I know how good they are. I know we've beaten them. ... I just hope we didn't make them angry."
Tuesday night's game was the Warriors' focus. They want desperately to get into the playoffs.
The Mavs -- maybe angry about Golden State, likely more angry about last June -- are focused on something else.
Re: Round 1: (1) Mavericks vs (8) Warriors Thread:
I HIGHLY doubt GS is one of the "happy to be here" teams. Baron won't let them have that mindset, he's been there before a few times. They are probably licking their chops at playing the Mavs too. No way they are going laissez-faire.