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Warriors vs Mavericks Preview

Friday night showdown pits the Warriors against a tough Mavs team

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks (40-23) @ Golden State Warriors (47-12)

Oracle Arena

7:30 p.m. PST

Radio: KNBR 680 AM | TV: ESPN

Buddy Blog: Mavs Moneyball

Coming off an admirable 4-3 stretch against Eastern Conference teams, the Warriors return to the thicket of the Western Conference, facing the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at Oracle. The Mavs have been up and down since the All-Star break, dealing with a couple of key injuries to Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons and having some issues (to say the least) with the integration of Rajon Rondo.

Let's start with Rondo. He's a notorious competitor who has a history of being hard to get along with, and the Mavericks' head coach Rick Carlisle has a reputation for not putting up with petulance. They got into an argument last week, but that feels like months ago already. It's in the past. However, an incident between a player and a coach looks pretty bad all the way over here in The Land of Chemistry, where players dine with one another and winning makes superstars forget who fired whom.

As a player, Rondo has helped tighten up the Mavericks defensively, but he has not been the perfect fit for their offense. While his tendency to dominate the ball may make the Mavericks easier for the Warriors to defend, his length helps the Mavs avoid asking "which Splash Brother would we like to shoot over JJ Barea tonight?"

People can debate about whether the Mavericks are Carlisle's or Rondo's team all they want, but the truth might be that this is Monta's team. His 28.1% usage rate leads the team and his ability to penetrate off the pick and roll is what instigates the Mavericks' offense. Having been a fan of a team that belonged to Monta, I'm fully aware of the ups and downs that he brings to the table, but Carlisle seems to be able to control Monta's chaos. The way I remember it, Don Nelson just turned the chaos into more chaos. As a member of the Mavericks, Monta is a key player, and slowing him down is important for the Warriors to come out with the win.

Because the Mavs have two diverse seven-footers, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler, I don't expect to see more of the position-less total basketball from the future that the Warriors have turned to in the second halves of the last three games. Between these two guys, there is just too much size and skill for the Warriors to not rely more on Andrew Bogut. Not only will Bogut be able to physically battle Chandler for rebounds, but his style of sagging off the pick and roll will also help contain Monta's penetration.

Nowitzki will be a challenge for Draymond Green. I suspect Green is the kind of guy who thinks he can do something to stop Nowitzki's patented one-legged fadeaway, but sometimes you just have to cede defeat and move onto the next possession. More interesting will be David Lee or Marreese Speights guarding Nowitzki, which will happen due to Carlisle's funky substitution pattern of taking Nowitzki out early before subbing him back in with the second unit. While Lee and Speights have more size to deal with Nowitzki, they don't have Green's guile or tenacity, and Nowitzki is one of the best at exploiting every chance he's given to score.

While the Mavs may seem like a team in turmoil, they are firmly in one of the most difficult playoff races in history, ahead of the likes of the Spurs and the Thunder. They are a talented, well-coached team that is built to create mismatches. However, I don't see their backcourt or bench holding up to those of the Warriors. I predict the Warriors keep Oracle happy on Friday night.