OK, so we've gotten some flak about picking the Warriors to take down the Dallas Mavericks in six games in the opening round of the NBA's western Conference playoffs. We'll be the first to admit it's a homer pick, because, well, we do really want the Warriors to win, and we'll be the first to admit it.
But our pie in the sky has an empirical basis. Here's five reasons why the Warriors will beat the Mavs in this playoff series.
1. Mo' -- The Warriors are the hottest team in the Association right now. Forget the 9-1 finish, forget the 16-7 surge, forget the five-game winning streak. There is a palpable sense of destiny that is sweeping this team along in an upward spiral of confidence and success. These guys aren't just running the coach's plays and hoping for the best -- they truly believe in themselves and each other, and that can go a long way in an adrenaline and emotion fueled arena like the opening round of the playoffs.
It seems like we've all been waiting our entire lives for a Warriors playoff game. Well, tonight is the night. Photo from ESPN.com.
2. Guard play -- To be blunt, Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, and Monta Ellis are going to eat the Dallas backcourt's lunch and then hit them up for juice money on top of that. The bigger, more physical Warriors guards are going to make Jason Terry and his 16.7 ppg average a nonentity, and Greg Buckner better have his matador cape ready because he's going to be watching BDiddy, JRich, and Monta blow past him all night. Devon Harris is slippery, but look for the Dub's guards to swarm on D and force him to give it up.
3. Match-up! -- Coach Don Nelson is a mad matchup scientist (but not a genius), and he's going to have a lot to work with in this series. As mentioned, the Warriors' guards are going to run roughshod over Big D's backcourt, but there are several other juicy opportunities for the W's to exploit. Undoubtedly, Nelson will play 6'9" Al Harrington against the Mavericks' center Erik Dampier. Damps will have to come outside to contest Harrington's sizzling three-point stroke, leaving him vulnerable to fouling and the interior vulnerable to driving. Nellie might also play Stephen Jackson against Dallas' MVP Dirk Nowitzski to maximize Jackson's quickness advantage and make Dirk run on defense. Don't even get us started about Andris Biedrins coming in off the bench. The Mavericks will have no answer for him. Mickael Pietrus will have his hands full with stud Josh Howard, but swarming help from his mates will mitigate the damage.
4. Psychology -- We don't care how hard the Mavs are fronting, believe this: they are worried. How could they not be? The Warriors drilled them all three times this year, by an average of more than 16 points per game! That's 20 percent of their losses for the season! And this ain't some Nellie magic wand, the Warriors domination of Dallas is systemic. Last year, under former coach Mike Montgomery the Warriors took three of four from the Mavs, who, you might remember, went on to the NBA Finals. Oh the lunatic is in their heads alright. Nellie and the boys have Dallas coach Avery Johnson and his team questioning, questioning, questioning. Not a good thing to be grappling with in the first round.
5. Defense -- Did we just write "defense"? Yeah we did. Believe it. The offense has been consistently high-output all year, but it has been the team's defensive improvement that has sparked the recent upsurge in fortunes. Swarming, hawking, swatting, grabbing, infuriating defense in all it's many colors will give the Warriors the ability to build big early leads and maybe even hold them. When you score 106.5 points per game, you only need a little bit of defense to outscore your opponent.
So there you go, five quasi-legit reasons to believe in the Warriors' first-round dreams. Sure, you can find plenty of solid reasons why they won't win, but since we're playing with house money anyway this year, let's dream big.