Extra Pass: Can Mavericks end slump vs. streaking Warriors?

Published November 29, 2022, 3:00 PMMiguel Flores

The two teams will meet for the first time since last season’s Western Conference Finals.

What's up with the Mavericks?

Can one player lead a team to the playoffs? That is one question the Dallas Mavericks are trying to answer. In most games, it certainly feels like the Mavericks are a one-man show with Luka Doncic having to do everything he can, especially offensively, to get the Mavs over the hump. Spencer Dinwiddie has had his moments as the second option, and Christian Wood has been pretty good coming off the bench when Jason Kidd is in the mood to trust him. Otherwise, it's been all Luka for the Mavs.

This season, Luka Doncic is second in the league in usage rate at 37.6 percent, just behind Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 39.1 percent. This basically means the Mavs depend on Luka to finish more than a third of their plays when he’s on the court. In turn, Doncic is putting up ridiculous numbers: a league-leading 33.1 points on 50.4 percent shooting with 8.7 rebounds and 8.4 assists. 

Considering how brilliant Doncic has been, it is a no-brainer to filter as many plays through as humanly possible. But this approach has caught up to the Mavs, especially against other playoff contenders. The Mavs have lost their last four games, going 9-10 for the season. The last four losses have all come against teams in the upper echelon of the standings: the Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Toronto Raptors. All these teams can throw different looks at Doncic and have creative schemes to stop the things the Mavs like to run.

Doncic hasn’t seen much of a drop-off in production during the losing streak but there’s been a glaring lack of offense from his teammates. The Mavs have been starting Reggie Bullock this season, who has been adequate on defense but only provides 5.1 points on 30.0 percent shooting in 28 minutes per game.

They have a lot of role players that any contending team would love - players that don’t need the ball to be effective. The Mavericks are the rare case where a contender needs another ball-dominant player. They have reportedly signed former Detroit Piston and OKC Thunder legend Kemba Walker. Whether a former All-Star who’s been cut by multiple teams is the answer to Mavs’ woes remains to be seen. At least, we’re still certainly going to get some Luka Magic.

What’s up with the Golden State Warriors?

Unlike the Mavs, the Warriors seem to have figured it out. They’ve won five of their last six games with their lone loss coming in a game where they rested all their starters. The panic from early this season has dissipated as the Warriors have found their range.

Steph Curry has been quietly putting up MVP numbers, averaging 31.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 7.1 assists. He’s been close to his legendary 2015-2016 campaign, making another run at the 50/45/90 club. His performances have soothed the Warriors’ early troubles.

The difference in this recent stretch has been Klay Thompson. After shooting below 20 percent to start the season, Captain Klay has regained his touch, dropping 23.2 points per game on 50.5 percent shooting over the last two weeks. He still hasn’t been the awesome defender in years past but just getting back his shooting has been the boost the Warriors have needed.

Combine that with another All-Star level campaign for Andrew Wiggins and a locked-in Draymond Green and the Warriors look dangerous again. They haven’t addressed their depth issues, which could cost them once their starters need to sit some games. For now, the Warriors are healthy and ready to throw everything at Luka.

Watch out for…

The matchup here is probably going to be Andrew Wiggins trying to stop Luka Doncic. Wiggins’ offensive emergence has driven the Warriors to new heights but his defense has been his main asset since being traded to The Bay.

This matchup has favored Doncic as he’s averaged 29.8 points and 7.1 assists in eight games against the Warriors since 2021. Doncic hasn't been shooting the ball well in their losing streak so a matchup against the Warriors could spark another explosion for him.

Where to watch

Catch the Mavericks-Warriors game tomorrow live at 8:30 AM on NBA TV Philippines.