Why Warriors need to sweep Mavericks in Western Conference finals

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Why sweep of Mavs is critical to Warriors' title run originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The conditioning equipment never rests because the Warriors analyze everything from age to ZZ’s. That naked and endless pursuit of any conceivable edge is why they want to end the Western Conference finals Tuesday night.

The Warriors have a three-games-to-none series lead and, though they might like and respect the Dallas Mavericks and their players, the thought of losing Game 4 on the road and returning home to end the best-of-seven series in Game 5 is repellent.

“It’s always the toughest game, the close-out game, so we know it’s going to be difficult,” coach Steve Kerr said Monday. “And that’s all we’re focused on.”

They want no part of the “gentleman’s sweep.” They want it straight because they’ve seen enough to know every extra minute increases risk -- now more than ever.

The NBA crowned two champions, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks, in a span of nine months and is going for its third in 20 months. It’s an unprecedented test of stamina, and it’s safe to assume this is why aches and injuries are piling up, why late-game shots are short-circuited by tired legs and why so many games look, um, peculiar.

The defending champion Bucks wilted as much under the heat of 39 postseason games in 20 months as they did in the absence of All-Star forward Khris Middleton. Milwaukee scored 95 points in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and 81 in Game 7, losing both by a combined 40.

The Suns collapsed under the weight of 32 postseason games in 10 months, as well as the sustained intensity required to gain the No. 1 overall seed. They lost Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference semifinals by a combined 60 points.

Guess which teams were in the 2021 NBA Finals? Milwaukee and Phoenix hit a wall. The wall.

Future Hall of Famer Chris Paul, the NBA’s ball-security boss, committed 18 turnovers in a four-game stretch as Phoenix was falling to the Mavericks. The Suns had nothing left for Game 7 and were annihilated by Dallas.

The Mavericks, it certainly appears, don’t have anything left after reaching their peak in taking down the Suns. Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson -- who rank first, second and fourth in total postseason minutes -- are averaging a combined 12 points after halftime against Golden State.

The Mavericks are reeling, and they know it. Moreover, the Warriors can sense it.

They want to avoid the traps they fell into in initial closeout games against the Nuggets in the first round and the Grizzlies in the conference semifinals.

“In Denver, we played sloppy in the first half,” Curry said of a 126-121 loss in Game 4. “We were all over the place and gave them life, on top of them playing well, and it allowed their home crowd to get into it. In Memphis [a 134-95 Game 5 loss], we were just outmatched, out-game-planned from the start. We didn’t respond well until Game 6.

“Take those lessons and understand that feeling -- it’s extremely hard to close out any team, especially on the road. You’ve got to bring it.”

Of the four teams remaining in the postseason, the Warriors, having missed the previous two postseasons, are the most “rested.” When the Celtics and Heat play Game 5 on Wednesday, it will be Boston’s 37th playoff game in 20 months and Miami’s 40th in the span. They are laboring through the series.

When the Mavericks take the floor Tuesday night, it will be their 30th playoff game since September 2020.

The Warriors? Their 15th.

They want their 16th to be in the Finals, which begin June 2.

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They want the rest for Curry. For Draymond Green. For Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins and particularly Kevon Looney -- who had never played more than 29 minutes before May 13 but is averaging 31 over the last four games.

They want the recovery time for Otto Porter Jr. and Andre Iguodala and Gary Payton II, each of whom will need practice and conditioning.

The Warriors do not want a Game 5, even though it would be at Chase Center. To peek around the league is to see fatigue. They look at their high-tech fitness equipment, analyze the data and wish to minimize risk.

They have their edge. Their priorities are in order.

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