The Western Conference Finals tip off tonight as the third-seeded Golden State Warriors take on the number four seed, Dallas Mavericks. For the Warriors, this is familiar territory, as they'll be looking to add another championship to the dynasty that they've created over the last few years. For Dallas however, they're chasing their first NBA Finals appearance, and shot at a championship in over a decade. Dallas is riding high right now coming off a huge upset against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns, while Golden State advanced after a tough battle with the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. With that being said, let's dive into the series preview and my official predictions for the 2022 WCF.
The Warriors dynasty is once again one step away from competing for yet another NBA Championship, while the young and inexperienced Mavericks look to continue to ride the high that they’re on after upsetting the top-seeded Phoenix Suns in seven games. Golden State has gotten to this point while battling through a plethora of injuries in the regular season, allowing for many of their role players and young stars to further develop and contribute. Dallas has been carried throughout the season largely by the production and dominance of Luka Doncic and the emergence of fourth-year guard Jalen Brunson. Golden State continues to battle injuries during the playoffs as well as the absence of their Head Coach, Steve Kerr. However, the Warriors are expecting to be close to one hundred percent for the WCF, as Steve Kerr has already cleared the league’s Health and Safety Protocols, and forwards Otto Porter Jr. and Andre Igoudala will return in game one and game two. The health and experience of these other role players for Golden State will be huge in this series, as they’ll be relied upon to relieve some of the pressure off of the Warriors’ stars and provide veteran playoff experience that parts of the Warriors roster do not have. The only other question facing these Warriors is who will step up outside of their big three. Golden State saw twenty-two-year-old Jordan Poole explode when put into a key role against both Denver and Memphis (19.3 PPG in the playoffs), but they’ll need a bigger contribution from All-Star Forward Andrew Wiggins and other role players to make it easier for Curry and Klay. For the Mavericks, they’ll be continuing to rely on the dominance of Luka Doncic, who leads them in every statistical category except for blocks during this playoff run. The battle to watch for in this series will be Doncic versus the multiple defenders that Golden State will throw at him. Expect the Warriors to use a balance of size and physicality in defenders like Draymond Green and Andre Igoudala as well as the speed with defenders like Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins. The Mavericks’ supporting cast of Jalen Brunson, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Dorian Finney-Smith will have to step up to take some of the scoring and playmaking load off the shoulders of Doncic.
This series will be a clash of two very different styles of play. The Warriors will look to continue to play at a rapid pace and make everyone on the floor an offensive threat while lighting up the scoreboard with the three-ball. Dallas, meanwhile, will want to slow the pace of the game and put the ball in Doncic’s hands, allowing him to facilitate the offense as both a scorer and a passer. I think the pace and the multiple weapons of Golden State will be too much for Luka Doncic and Dallas to keep up with. Luka will continue to shine in this series and further prove he’ll be one of the faces of the league for years to come, but it won’t be enough to send Dallas to their first NBA Finals since 2011.
Golden State wins the series in six games, and Steph Curry wins the inaugural Magic Johnson, Western Conference Finals MVP trophy
*All stats were received from NBA.com and ESPN'S stats & info. department