The Dallas Mavericks weren't as good a team as the Phoenix Suns in the regular season, but the Mavericks upset the Suns in the NBA's Western Conference semifinals because Dallas had the best player in the series in Luka Doncic. He will have to be superhuman again vs. the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, starting tonight in San Francisco, for Dallas to pull the upset. Doncic has been given a huge Over/Under point total of 33.5 for Game 1 at Caesars Sportsbook, and his team is a 5-point underdog. Click here for expect pick.
Phoenix had one of the NBA's best defenders in Mikal Bridges, who was a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. However, the Suns didn't really have a lot of bodies they could throw at Doncic otherwise. He averaged 32.6 points in the series and topped tonight's 33.5 number in four of seven.
Golden State has one of the top defensive assistant coaches in the NBA in Mike Brown – he will take over as Kings head coach whenever the Warriors' season is finished – and the Warriors figure to throw several guys at Doncic in this series, led by Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Kevon Looney. Gary Payton II could have been included in that group, but he's likely to miss the Western Finals with an injury suffered in the last round vs. Memphis. Iguodala will not play tonight but should see the floor at some point in the series.
Some Warriors beat writers believe that the team will play zone at times with a box-and-one element to try to take the ball out of Doncic's hands: "Maybe I'll see a couple more double teams this series, but that's fine. We've seen double teams the whole season," Doncic told reporters ahead of Game 1. (See tickets at StubHub)
At 32.7 points per game, Doncic owns the second-highest career scoring average in playoff history (minimum 10 games played), behind Michael Jordan (33.4 PPG). Doncic is at 31.5 PPG in these playoffs. In the regular season when Dallas was 3-1 vs. Golden State, Doncic averaged 31.5 PPG, but it should be noted that Green only played in one of those games.
While it's the first trip to the conference finals since 2011 for Dallas, it's old hat for the Warriors. Golden State is playing in the round for the sixth time in eight years. Golden State has astonishingly won 17 consecutive playoff series against Western Conference teams (dating to 2015). The Warriors have won their past 12 playoff series openers at home as well.
On the series line, Golden State is -220 and Dallas +180. The favored exact result is Warriors in seven at +275. A Mavericks sweep would pay +2600.
NBA free picks: Doncic Under 33.5 points, Warriors at -210 on moneyline.
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