NBA Playoff Pick ‘Em: Can the Splash Brothers put out Luka's fire?

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) drives to the basket against Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42). (Jed Jacobsohn/AP)

It’s the future face of the league against one of the current NBA avatars. The next generation against the decade’s most dominant team. Through two rounds, Luka Doncic has been so good (31-10-6 with surprisingly solid defence), the betting public seems to think his Dallas Mavericks have a decent shot at knocking off the championship pedigree Warriors. And despite a lifetime of Warriors fandom, I’m inclined to agree.

Both teams have questions to answer. Can the Mavericks match up on the perimeter with the Super Splash Brothers? Can the Warriors continue the elite rebounding they displayed against Memphis? Which Warrior will guard Doncic? How will the Mavericks defend Stephen Curry, and how will they adjust to the Warriors’ beautiful offence? Will Maxi Kleber continue doing a passable Dirk Nowitzki impression?

I’m going to try to answer those questions, which in turn should give us a pretty good vision of how this series will go.

Overall record against the spread: 24-24-1

Series picks: 10-2

Dallas Mavericks (+180) vs Golden State Warriors (-220)

The first two rounds the Warriors played should give us a strong clue as to how they plan to defend Doncic. Both Memphis and Denver presented the Warriors with a similar dilemma: A heliocentric star with shooting around him. Like Doncic, Ja Morant and Nikola Jokic are essentially unguardable. The Warriors’ answer for that was to lock up everyone else and force Morant and Jokic into a situation where they had to score 35+ points for their teams to win.

Morant averaged 38.3 points per game, Jokic averaged 31. I expect to see similar numbers from Doncic in this series. At least to start, I’m expecting the Warriors to stick All-Star Andrew Wiggins on Doncic, as they prefer to keep Draymond Green off the opposing team’s star to allow him to play help defence, something he is one of the best at.

Wiggins doesn’t have the heft to hang with Doncic, but they don’t need him to shut down the Slovenian. They just need to make Doncic work.

The Mavericks are ruthless when it comes to hunting mismatches, and Curry and Jordan Poole will likely be the targets of that hunt - and if the Mavs are successful in getting those two on Doncic often enough, the Warriors are in trouble. They’ll likely pre-switch as often as they can to keep Curry and Poole away from Doncic, but that leads to scrambles and rotations on defence, which Dallas’ shooters could take advantage of.

When Golden State has the ball, Dallas matches up well. I’m guessing we see Dorian Finney-Smith on Curry and Reggie Bullock on Poole, which makes wherever they stick Jalen Brunson a key. If Brunson is on Klay Thompson, that’s the kind of size mismatch Thompson has feasted on throughout his career.

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd has proven himself incredibly astute in these playoffs, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brunson on Green. Green is the Warriors’ least threatening scorer, and most common screener for Curry and Poole. Brunson on Green means Brunson’s lack of size will be mitigated, and it will allow the Mavs to switch screens.

The Warriors have made it this far without a Curry flurry (he shot just 32 per cent from deep against Memphis), and without consistency from Thompson. And frankly, they look vulnerable. Doncic on the other hand looks like a the Terminator. The pick is Warriors in seven, but the juice is on Dallas. They opened at +200, and the public has bet that down to +180 in a matter of one day. I think this series is much more of a coin flip than the books do, my advice is the take the Mavs with those positive odds.

Game 1: Dallas Mavericks (+5.5, +180) at Golden State Warriors (-5.5, -220) – 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT

Dallas’ first two rounds have come against teams much simpler to defend than Golden State. Everyone is much simpler to defend than the Dubs, who have the kind of offensive personnel and team chemistry that coaches dream about. And it takes some adjusting to win a series. The Mavs will adjust, and they will do a fine job defending the motion offence, but not in Game 1.

It’s one thing to watch tape of Curry, Poole and Klay running constant off-ball screens, dribble handoffs, and back cuts, it’s another altogether to guard it. While the Mavericks went 3-1 against Golden State on the year, all four of those games came with either Curry, Thompson or Green out of the line up, so they’ve truly never seen this Warriors team.

The Warriors have won 20 of their 22 series openers in the Steve Kerr era. They’re at home and have more rest. I’m going with the Warriors (-5). I like Poole OVER 1.5 threes made, and I’m taking Wiggins UNDER 15.5 points, since I think he draws Doncic duty on defence and will be working hard on that end.

The Sicko Same Game Parlay of The Night pays off at +850

· Golden State moneyline

· Jordan Poole OVER 1.5 threes made

· Stephen Curry OVER 3.5 threes made

· Klay Thompson 20 or more points

· Andrew Wiggins UNDER 15.5 points.

As always, play safe and don’t chase.

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