The Dallas Mavericks lost Game Two of the Western Conference Finals to the Golden State Warriors after leading by 19 in the second quarter. While this isn’t a new scene during the 2022 playoffs (there have been many instances of teams coming back from a large deficit to win a game), the Mavericks in particular have something to worry about. During this game, Luka Doncic dropped 42 points, Jalen Brunson had 31, and Reggie Bullock, a newly certified sharpshooter, had 21.
In Game Three of the Western Conference Finals, the Mavericks lost 109-100, and while Doncic again had a spectacular night with 40 points and 11 rebounds, Brunson had 20 points and Spencer Dinwiddie had 26. Unfortunately, Reggie Bullock had 0 points in 40 minutes of action, as he missed every single one of his shots.
If three of the Mavericks’ four best players can go off and they still can’t win, what does this say about their chances?
The Mavericks are a heliocentric team, a term that was first used to describe NBA teams by The Athletic’s Seth Partnow. Heliocentrism means that a team revolving around one star generally doesn’t win in the NBA. Zach Kram of The Ringer did an article exploring this concept even further, and you should definitely read it. But to look at some of the main points, Doncic has a usage rate of around 40% in the playoffs, a ridiculous burden. If we narrow that usage rate down to around 35%, then we find that only two heliocentric teams in NBA history have advanced to the conference finals (not counting the Mavericks). Those two teams are the 2017-18 Houston Rockets, and the 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers.
These teams revolved around star players James Harden and Allen Iverson, but both of these teams had better supporting casts then the Mavericks currently do. In 2018, Harden had Chris Paul at his side, along with shooters like Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and lob threat Clint Capela. The 2000-01 76ers had Iverson, but also had Defensive Player of the Year Dikembe Mutombo, 6th Man of the Year Aaron McKie, lockdown defender Raja Bell, as well as some veterans like Kevin Ollie, Vernon Maxwell, and Anthony Miller. Both of these teams had better supporting casts than the 2021-22 Mavericks, and the Rockets lost in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals when they choked against the Warriors (similar to how the Suns choked this year). The 76ers made the Finals, but they had a little bit of help from the referees in the Western Conference Finals. There was a very suspicious suspension, a lot of foul calls from the 76ers, and complaints from George Karl and Ray Allen. Even then, the 76ers would only win a single game in the Finals, before losing in five.
The Mavericks are facing a Golden State team that’s at their best since 2017. Even without Kevin Durant, they’ve reloaded, with Andrew Wiggins becoming a first time All-Star, and Jordan Poole developing into a third Splash Brother (or splash cousin, depending on how you want to view it).
If you look at this game, then there are a few scary things about the Warriors you’ll notice:
- They’re a far more balanced team than the Mavericks. While scoring for the Mavericks largely depends on Doncic and Brunson, the Warriors have a far more balanced attack. Even if any one player is off, another one is more than capable of filling in. Stephen Curry had 32 in this game, Klay Thompson had 15, Wiggins had 16, Jordan Poole had 23, Otto Porter, Jr, had 11, and Kevon Looney had a playoff high 21.
- The Warriors didn’t need to trade for another center. Looney will do just fine for this team, as he’s proven adept at guarding players on the perimeter (far better than Rudy Gobert in 2017). The Warriors didn’t have to sacrifice any depth at the trade deadline to upgrade to a center like Myles Turner, which is very beneficial now. It also completes Joe Lacob’s vision of contending while also building a young core for the future.
- Adding off that second point, people said at the trade deadline that the Warriors would be screwed in the playoffs when they had to face a team with a dominant center. In the first round, Looney and Draymond Green easily dismantled Nikola Jokic, so much so that I forgot the Nuggets were even in the first round. I had to Google who the Warriors’ first round opponent was! In the second round, Jaren Jackson, Jr, and Steven Adams of the Grizzlies didn’t prove to be a challenge, and the Mavericks don’t have a huge center; unless of course, you count Boban Marjanovic. Plus, the Warriors look so smooth cutting into the paint, and they’re so difficult to stop.
So yes, the Mavericks are a fun team with a great story this season. But the Warriors are too deadly, and history shows that this series likely won’t end well for the Mavericks. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit.
What do you think of this series? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!