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What the Warriors can learn from the playoffs


When he returned home for an offseason break, Warriors guard Brandin Podziemski sat courtside for a Bucks-Pacers first-round game.

“I think it’s more physical, it’s more defensive-oriented in the playoffs,” Podziemski said after being named All-Rookie. “Just to see that environment, what the refs were letting go, what they were calling. How you see the All-Stars rise to the top when it matters. It gave me the chills, like, ‘This is fun. This is something I want to be a part of.’”

The best lesson is actually playing in the postseason, but watching and observing can be informative, too. And the Warriors can learn much more than what Podziemski noted.

From a team-building perspective, Dallas showed what a string of shrewd, ambitious moves can do. Teams built around a true, First Team All-NBA superstar like Luka Doncic — or Steph Curry! — are never as far away as they may seem.

The Mavericks went 38-44 and missed the playoffs last year. They drafted Dereck Lively and traded for P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford. Voilà, they’re in the Finals.

Another takeaway: Defense still wins championships. Before the All-Star break, offenses were running out of control. Even the best defenses were routinely surrendering 120 points. The officiating emphases changed in the second half of the season, bringing the game back to equilibrium.

Minnesota had the best defense in the league all year. Boston was second. Ten of the top 11 teams in defensive rating made the playoffs. After the trade deadline, Dallas ranked seventh in defensive rating and has leveled up even higher in the postseason.

The keys to defense in the modern NBA are rim protection and switchable perimeter defenders. The Warriors have the foundation with Draymond Green and Trayce Jackson-Davis in the frontcourt. Around them and Curry, Golden State needs players who can shoot and defend multiple positions. There’s a blueprint, and the Warriors aren’t too far off.

On the other side of the ball, the Celtics took what the Warriors revolutionized and amped it up. They took 240 more 3-pointers than any other team (the Mavericks were second). What if the Warriors, a team with Curry and probably Klay Thompson, took even more triples? Golden State ranked second in 3-point makes and third in attempts, so it would only require a slight twist of the dial to shoot more 3s.

And then there’s the secondary scoring element. The Warriors didn’t need the playoffs to come to this conclusion, but they desperately need another shot-creator next to Curry. The Mavericks have Doncic and Kyrie Irving as two elite playmakers. The Celtics have at least six players who can pass, dribble and shoot. The more dynamic players the Warriors have, the more they can leverage Curry’s gravity.

When you have a player on Doncic or Curry’s level, go for it. The West is stacked but not impenetrable. Take more 3s to increase variance. Fortify the defense with athletes. A secondary scorer is a prerequisite.

It’s all easier said than done. But the Warriors should be taking notes.

Value in Dallas

The Celtics are heavily favored in the Finals, just as they were against Golden State in 2022.

As a -225 series betting favorite in Vegas, Boston has history behind it. Teams that are at least -200 favorites in the Finals are 21-3 since 1990, per Action Network. The three losses? The 2016 and 2019 Warriors and the 2004 Lakers.

The line is too high.

Dallas has become an elite team throughout the postseason in which it was more battle-tested than Boston. The Mavs don’t have any small guards the Celtics’ wings can pick on in mismatches. Kristaps Porzingis’ health is a question mark. He and Al Horford face a massive challenge guarding Doncic in the pick-and-roll. Dallas is deadeye from the corners, where Boston has had some shooting luck in the playoffs.

The Mavericks take care of the ball, and the Celtics feast in transition when they force turnovers. In Doncic, the Mavericks have the best players in the matchup.

This series is going to be airtight.

Beware of misinformation

It’s June Gloom in the city and offseason speculation on NBA Twitter. Proceed with caution.

There was a “report” on Twitter/X from an “NBA Analyst” that said, “While there’s a league-wide expectation that the Warriors will commit to forward Jonathan Kuminga long-term, the franchise should be shopping the value of Andrew Wiggins.” Wordiness aside, the nugget doesn’t pass the smell test. It got nearly a million views.

Unless it’s from Woj, Shams, Stein, someone with The Athletic in their bio, or this very newspaper, it should be taken with a Salt Bae-sized grain of salt. This time of year, there’s not only misinformation from lightly sourced reporters or bloggers but also rumors presented as fact, smokescreens, and fake or satirical accounts.

(If that post was true, the Warriors are shopping the wrong guy).

Winners and losers from Celtics-Mavericks Finals

Winner: Kyrie Irving

The narrative around the Mavericks star has morphed into total reverence for him overcoming supposed adversity to return to the Finals as a born-again superstar. Really, he was just a tactless, self-immolating black sheep for six years post-Cleveland. Now he’s back in the right role, and the most envious one in the game: as a Robin. No criticism when you have an off night, all the praise when you go off.

Loser: Grant Williams

He played — or, rather, talked — his way out of both Boston and Dallas. At least he’s a really nice guy.

Winner: Boston Red Sox

With the Timberwolves again showing how impossible it is to climb out of a 3-0 series deficit, the 2004 Red Sox are still the all-time comeback kings. Alexa, play “Tessie.” 

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