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Warriors vs. Mavs Preview: Oh, this is a big one

The Warriors have a chance to make some serious ground in the standings against a conference foe.

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Golden State Warriors v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors have one of the easiest schedules in the NBA for their final stretch, but you wouldn’t know it by tonight’s game. They host the Dallas Mavericks, and you could make a pretty strong case that it’s the most important game of the season thus far.

So the smart thing to do would be to win it.

The deets

Who: Golden State Warriors (31-30) vs. Dallas Mavericks (33-27)

When: 6:30 p.m. PT

Where: Chase Center, San Francisco, California

TV: TNT (available on fuboTV)

Projected starting lineups:

Warriors: Stephen Curry, Mychal Mulder, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney
Mavs: Luka Dončić, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber

Last results:

Warriors: Beat the Kings 117-113 — 3-2 in their last 5 games
Mavs: Lost to the Kings 113-106 — 3-2 in their last 5 games

Team ratings (garbage-time adjusted, per Cleaning The Glass):

Warriors: 110.3 offense (23rd), 111.1 defense (7th), -0.8 net (19th)
Mavs: 115.1 offense (9th), 113.9 defense (22nd), +1.2 net (12th)

The story

The Warriors are currently 10th in the West, which is the final play-in spot. The Mavs are currently 6th in the West, which is the final guaranteed playoff spot. But just 2.5 games separate the teams, and that gap will dwindle to 1.5 if the Warriors win.

Climbing to the 6th seed is a tall task for the Warriors, but it’s not unthinkable. Including tonight’s game, 7 of their final 11 are at home, and they still have games against the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves, plus two against the Oklahoma City Thunder and three against the New Orleans Pelicans.

And they’re playing pretty darn good basketball.

The Warriors have three teams between themselves and the Mavericks, so catching up to Dallas doesn’t guarantee them the 6th seed. But a win tonight would go a long way towards securing a guaranteed playoff spot, while a loss would mostly shut the door on the idea.

That’s a lot at stake.

Players to watch

Warrior to watch: Andrew Wiggins.

The Warriors need their secondary and tertiary players to not only show their talent, but play their role if they want to succeed. Lately they’ve all been doing that fairly well.

Wiggins becomes an extremely important part of the team when they’re playing good basketball, and that’s doubly true against Dallas, as he’ll likely be tasked with defending Luka Dončić out of the gates, and for much of the game. He’s shown a strong ability to play high-level on-ball defense at times this year, and if he brings that against Dončić, while contributing on offense, the Warriors will be in the driver’s seat for a huge win.

Maverick to watch: Tim Hardaway Jr.

Hardaway has carved out a nice role in the NBA as a quality wing, but his play can be at times erratic. He has 12 instances this year of exceeding 20 points — including a trio of 30+ point performances — but also has 12 instances of being held to single digits.

He’s a player who often fades into the shadows, and often because the thorn in a team’s side that is responsible for Dallas winning.

Matchup to watch: Steph Curry vs. Luka Dončić.

When big games arise, it often comes down to who has the best player on the court. Curry and Dončić may not be directly matched up often, but each player is capable of being the best player in the world on any given night (or on most nights you might argue for Curry). Everyone who steps foot on the court tonight will be important, but the game could very well be decided by which of the two superstars has the better night.

Keys to victory

  • Have more energy than Dallas, a team that’s on the back end of a road back-to-back
  • Hound Luka Dončić and force other players to beat you, or at least a lot of turnovers and inefficient shots
  • Keep the ball moving and smartly attack a subpar defense

Get the win, Dubs. It’s a big one.

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