Warriors vs. Mavericks series preview, best bet

Jesse D. Garrabrant / National Basketball Association / Getty

It's been 15 years since these teams last met in the playoffs when the "We Believe" Warriors stunned the Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 postseason. This time, the roles are reversed, as Luka Doncic plays the Stephen Curry role for the scrappy series underdogs.

Here's our preview and best bet for this series, with odds courtesy of theScore Bet:

No. 3 Warriors (-240) vs. No. 4 Mavericks (+190)

TEAM RECORD ATS H2H NET RATING SERIES LINE
Warriors 61-32 46-43-4 1-3 +5.3 (5th) -1.5 (-105)
Mavericks 60-35 56-37-2 3-1 +3.5 (7th) +1.5 (-125)

At first glance, it's easy to dismiss the Mavericks as overmatched underdogs against the Warriors, who are a more complete team with high-level postseason experience. But couldn't you have said the same thing before the second round? (Unfortunately, we did.)

Two weeks ago, the Suns were title favorites and the overwhelming pick to advance to their second consecutive conference finals. That was before they ran into the perimeter buzzsaw that Dallas drove right through Phoenix's defense, capped with one of the most dominant Game 7 wins you'll ever see to crush the Suns' title hopes on their own court.

The Mavericks' five-out approach on offense and relentless switching on defense worked so well that it turned Phoenix's strengths into weaknesses. In Games 5 and 6, Deandre Ayton averaged 20.5 points and 10 rebounds on 65.5% shooting and looked like a potential X-factor for the Suns. In Game 7, Ayton was run off the floor, playing just 17 minutes and sitting out the entire fourth quarter. Chris Paul torched Dallas' defense early in the series. However, he struggled mightily over the final five contests (9.4 PPG, 5.8 AST, 3.6 TO), and the Mavericks' length along the perimeter swallowed him up.

It's at least fair to wonder how Golden State will stop this relentless Mavericks attack, even if it has advantages of its own. Sure, the Warriors' quartet of high-end scorers - all of whom average at least 3.5 triples per game - is a menacing sight for opposing defenses, especially when the Dubs break out their renewed "Death Lineup" that killed the Nuggets in Round 1.

Still, how will this group hold up defensively against Dallas' isolation-heavy approach? The Mavericks have run iso on 16.6% of possessions through two rounds, second only to the 76ers (16.7%). That's fueled a heavy dose of driving opportunities and kick-out threes for Dallas - especially when Maxi Kleber mans the center spot. It also opens the floor for the Mavericks' trio of Doncic, Jalen Brunson, and Spencer Dinwiddie and dares the opposing team to send help.

Conversely, the Warriors struggled against the one elite isolation scorer they faced this postseason (Ja Morant) and have allowed 1.03 points per possession on such plays, third-worst by any playoff team this campaign. Golden State owned the fourth-worst mark of any team in the regular season (0.96), too, frequently sending opponents to the free-throw line in the process.

On the other end, the Mavericks' switching defense froze the Suns' shooters in the second round and essentially forced them to win with Dallas' same iso-heavy approach. And even with elite iso scorers in Paul and Devin Booker at its disposal, Phoenix's offense fell apart against the Mavs, who quietly posted the fourth-highest defensive rating (109.3) after Jan. 1.

The Warriors owned among the NBA's lowest rates in isolation and pick-and-roll during the regular season, and they've scarcely relied on either this postseason despite finding success when they do. So the central question arises: Does Golden State deviate from its formula for success, or does it stick to its game plan a la the Jazz and Suns? Both those teams looked like shells of their usual selves by the end of their respective series losses?

There are reasons for optimism for the Warriors, if only because of the sheer star power on their side. But there's a case to be made that the Mavericks have the best player in the series in Doncic. The overwhelming success of their game plan on both ends is also enough to believe in what they've pulled off thus far. In many ways, this matchup will be decided by which team gets hotter from deep across a seven-game series. With how well both can shoot it, I'll happily lean into the volatility of 3-point shooting and grab the underdogs at plus money.

Best bet: Mavericks +190

C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at cjackson.cowart@thescore.com.

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Warriors vs. Mavericks series preview, best bet
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