Golden State Warriors (62-13) at Dallas Mavericks (46-30)
5:30 p.m. PST
American Airlines Center - Dallas, TX
TV: CSN BA/HD | Radio: KNBR 680
Buddy blog: Mavs Moneyball
Forgive me for the weirdness of sounding bored by a season for the ages, but I thought Derek Knight's fanpost last night about regular season immortality was a fitting way to frame what I'm thinking about with the Golden State Warriors facing the Dallas Mavericks tonight.
As I say anytime someone brings up the idea of wanting to chase more regular season wins with first place in the Western Conference already wrapped up and first place overall likely to follow soon, nobody really wants to end up like the 2007 Mavs, who were of course the unfortunate victim of fate during the magical We Believe run. That's not so much to suggest that I believe the Warriors will fall in the first round as much as a reminder that racking up a bunch of regular season wins doesn't really much matter in retrospect if you can't validate it with a championship.
In short, I really don't care much about regular season milestones beyond the fact that it's pleasant context for putting the team's success in perspective; I would much rather see the Warriors do what they have to do to prepare for an upcoming playoff run, whether that be putting Stephen Curry in a zero-gravity chamber to make sure he doesn't put pressure on the ankle that he says is fine but we're all deathly afraid of shattering at any moment or putting Andrew Bogut in bubble wrap to minimize the risk of another freak late-season injury or fatigue.
The bottom line, as Derek Knight said perfectly, regular season successes are "recorded but not remembered" ... unless you're the top seed that becomes notorious for losing to the upstart eighth seed.
All of this talk might be more fan anxiety than a professional reality, but I would gladly sacrifice wins for the good of having a fresh team in the postseason whether that be in the form of sitting people or putting a cap on minutes for multiple players. And that's especially true in back-to-back situations like tonight's game in Dallas, which is the first of a Texas back-to-back.
Hot and Not
The Warriors enter tonight's game riding an 11-game winning streak after hanging on to beat the Phoenix Suns in a wild finish on Thursday night. The Mavs on the other hand have hit a bit of a rough patch as they've lost five of their last seven and have been going through a struggle that some Warriors fans might be able to empathize with, as summarized by Danny Webster of Mavs Moneyball: "...as much as it's going to cringe to say this, Monta Ellis needs to have the game of his life." Yikes - been there, bro.
Our good friend Monta has had a familiar up-and-down second half of the season, with his last two games being a microcosm of the kind of rollercoaster ride that comes with relying on him too heavily: after a 9-for-14 performance in a win in OKC on April Fool's Day (fittingly), he turned in a 7-for-21 performance that included 0-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc against the Houston Rockets at home on Thursday. But with Chandler Parsons out and Dirk Nowitzki closer to retirement than his MVP days, Monta will indeed need to have it all for the Mavs to beat the Warriors tonight.
Adding to the intrigue in the backcourt is Curry going against Rajon Rondo, who will be guarding a MVP candidate for the third consecutive game as Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News pointed out. Without digging too deeply into the MVP debate (because Curry is a basketball deity and you already know that), while Rondo was able to hold hold Rockets star James Harden and Thunder star Russell Westbrook to 40% and 31% shooting, respectfully, Curry poses a very different challenge. As Chris Paul noted after facing Curry the other night, it's not just that he can dribble through an entire team and flick the ball through the rim at will, but that defenders also have to contend with a gauntlet of screens to get him open when he's off the ball. In most cases, Curry having an off night is more defensive luck than strategy.
All of that makes this game one that the Warriors should be able to win if they come out firing on all cylinders. But who's counting anything short of championships at this point anyway?