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Warriors vs. Mavericks Series Odds & Betting Preview: How to Bet the Western Conference Finals

Warriors vs. Mavericks Series Odds & Betting Preview: How to Bet the Western Conference Finals article feature image
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Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors.

The Dallas Mavericks and Luka Doncic are riding high. They knocked off the Phoenix Suns, the No. 1 overall seed in the NBA Playoffs, with a complete and utter demolition in Game 7 Sunday to reach Doncic’s first conference finals appearance.

Now they take on a Golden State Warriors team that vacillates between looking very close to the powerhouse 3-time champion they were in the mid-2010s and a slightly long-in-the-tooth, slightly worse version of that team. (Like the Wal-Mart brand soda version of Dr. Pepper: Dr. Thunder.)

Will Cinderella’s shoe fit Doncic and send the Mavs to the Finals? Or will the Splash Brothers and Draymond Green return to what they feel is their rightful place as the apex predator of the West?

Let’s bet Warriors-Mavericks.

The Mavericks’ Defensive Weakness

The Mavericks have been incredible defensively, they’ve been active and aggressive. The formula is pretty simple: Switch everything with some matchup-zone thrown in on the weak side to allow them bring help.

One are of concern for them, however, is hand-offs instead of straight pick-and-roll. You can switch vs. pick-and-rolls and it’s easier to get guys going full speed into the switch. It’s harder with handoffs, which means if you switch it, you can catch a player flat-footed. At that point, the Mavs have to bring help, and once you get Dallas into rotation, it negates the entire reason for the switch.

The Jazz and Suns both ranked bottom-10 in points off hand-offs per game in the regular season. It’s just not a central component of their offense; both those teams are heavily pick-and-roll centric.

The Warriors, on the other hand, scored the fifth-most in the regular season and second-most in the playoffs per game on hand-offs. That specifically counters what Dallas does defensively.

The Mavs looked to trap Devin Booker off hand-offs in the Suns series, and early on, the Suns made mincemeat out of them with short rolls from Ayton. If the Mavericks don’t bring help here, it’s a layup/dunk, and if they do, Ayton can kick to the corner.

This projects to be worse if it’s Green in the Warriors offense off that roll given his passing ability.

So what happened? I’m honestly not sure.

Look at this still from a DHO trap in Game 7. Ayton’s wide open with a strong-side shooter by him. Devin Booker never looked at him and instead passed to the corner.

The Warriors are turnover-prone, and sloppy with the ball. The Mavs will create some turnovers with this coverage. But the Warriors are going to win the net points per possession on these sequences.

These are little things that represent how the Warriors are better suited to attack the Mavericks than the Suns or Jazz.

Dallas will play a considerable amount of drop coverage and try blitzing Stephen Curry in pick-and-rolls. But the Warriors don’t run a lot of pick-and-roll.

The Turnover Context

The Mavs are going to have an edge in points off turnovers. There’s no getting around that. The Warriors turn the ball over a ton, always have. It’s endemic to their style of play and personnel. Curry’s not a great passer (no, really, he’s not), they move the ball a ton. The Mavericks have been excellent at forcing turnovers.

Despite the volume of turnovers forced by Dallas, they don’t score particularly well on them. They actually are fifth-worst among playoff teams in points per possession off a live-ball turnover. Now, those are still high-percentage opportunities, which are killer, but it does need to be stressed that Dallas is not a scoring machine in any context — especially not off turnovers.

It’s not a question of volume, either. The Boston Celtics have a comparable number of turnovers forced to the Mavs and have the best points-off-live-ball-turnovers rate in the playoffs.

“Turnovers are a game-by-game problem, but in general, I think we talk about them like the turnover-prone team can’t do anything about it. You’d still rather have control over things instead of hoping the other team gives you the ball,” a league exec commented this week to Action Network.

Who Guards Luka Doncic?!

I hate these questions. It’s really the dumbest way of looking at the game.

Doncic is the best player in this series. You can argue he’s the best player remaining the playoffs. He’s a three-level scorer. You’re not going to stop him.

Period.

End dot.

Doncic averaged 36-10-7 per 40 minutes played with  Curry on the floor this season. So in the Warriors starters’ minutes, he absolutely roasted them. Green didn’t play in any of those games, and certainly, having one of the best defensive players in NBA history on the floor will help, but the Mavericks will just avoid him in direct actions.

I mean, Klay Thompson’s a pretty great defender, and he’s toast here:

Doncic will target Kevon Looney any time he’s on the floor. Doncic is big enough and strong enough to actually muscle Looney in the post to get to his spot:

He’ll pick on Curry while the Warriors go small. If the Warriors double, he’ll pass to open shooters.

“The Warriors have beaten so many teams just by running that switch and taking away the easy pick-and-roll stuff, but all Luka does is the hard stuff,” one scout said with a laugh this week. “The Warriors are built on athleticism and savvy, but Luka’s strong as an ox. He’s gonna go off.”

So if you just believe that one man can really beat the Warriors, then you absolutely need to bet the Mavs. I think the Warriors have the capacity to take away enough of the other guys in a way that the Suns absolutely did not for a variety of reasons.

The Warriors are extremely patient and are willing to wait you out and suffer the pain of you roasting them to stick with their game plan. Can the Mavericks create enough offense around Doncic if the Warriors are switching everything?

Can Jalen Brunson abuse Curry or Jordan Poole like he did Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley in the first round? Will he have the ball in his hands to do that with Doncic on the floor?

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The Forecast

The Mavericks are definitely the darling pick right now. The Warriors struggled with a young Grizzlies team, even without Ja Morant at the end, while the Mavericks took down the mighty Suns.

I have watched the four Mavs wins each about three times, going possession by possession. The Mavericks are really good, they’ve earned their way into the conference finals. They could have folded down 2-0 or down 3-2 to the Suns.

I just can’t say that I watched that series and thought it was more about Dallas than Phoenix. The Suns imploded, in an absolutely unfathomable way. Just bad decisions, not working for shots, sloppy passes. The Suns had a 58.7 Offensive Rating in the first-half of a home Game 7. We’re never going to see that again. Ever.

That doesn’t take away from what the Mavericks did, but I also can’t come to the conclusion that the Mavericks are better or have a tactical advantage in this series. They will make this close, it’s not a good matchup for the Warriors. But I also wouldn’t say it’s a bad matchup either, despite the season series results without Green available for the Warriors.

Doncic will shine. If you really believe the Warriors are washed, then you need to bet Dallas because you’re getting great value on them.

But Mavericks +1.5 on the series spread line (to go to seven game or win) is -145 at FanDuel. The overall series line says that the Warriors’ implied odds are roughly 69% or better, but that the Mavericks’ odds of making it to seven or winning are 59%.

The books don’t want Warriors money. That’s apparent, and obvious for a lot of reasons. Having talked to multiple bookmakers, they’re leveraged on Warriors title futures. They want Dallas money.

Teams that go to a Game 7 in the previous series are 32-49 straight up in Game 1 of the following series. So the odds say that the Warriors win Game 1. Teams that win Game 1 have gone on to win the conference finals 80% of the time.

Warriors -1.5 is +105 at BetRivers. That’s the best value on the board. I can see the Mavericks winning this series; there’s maybe even some slight EV on their number to win it. But if you’re going to bet them to win this series, just bet on Luka Doncic to win Finals MVP and go the full way.

For me, I think Golden State is better than what they’ve shown. They handled and undermanned Nuggets team in five games, and the Memphis matchup was one I thought was worst for them all season. I think Memphis was better than Dallas. The matchup isn’t great for the Warriors but it’s not bad enough to move me towards the Mavericks.

Warriors in 6, Warriors -1.5 at 105 is my best bet, with a lean towards the overs and Luka Doncic scoring overs.

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