The Golden State Warriors are four wins away from making their sixth trip to the NBA Finals in the last eight seasons, with one monster roadblock in the way — Luka Doncic.
The Warriors dispatched the Memphis Grizzlies in Friday’s Game 6 at the Chase Center, earning the right to take on the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals. While the Warriors were able to avoid Memphis star Ja Morant for the final three games of the series after he went down with an injury, they will now have to contend with Doncic and his 32.7 points per game career playoff average.
As one insider says, it could fall to a Warriors rookie to help stop him.
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Warriors ‘Wild Card’ Could Contain Doncic
As The Athletic’s Anthony Slater noted, the Warriors have had some success using wing Andrew Wiggins as a primary defender for Doncic during the regular season.
“Dončić had some success against Wiggins,” Slater noted. “He made 47 percent of his shots. But Wiggins made almost everything at least relatively difficult and caused a few turnovers.”
But Slater suggested that the Warriors could call on another athletic wing to take on Doncic for stretches — rookie Jonathan Kuminga. The insider called him a “wild card” for the Warriors to guard the Mavericks star for specific stretches.
“Kuminga is a wild card option on Dončić for brief stretches,” Slater wrote, adding, “Kuminga is long, quick and aggressive. He does have some physical tools that bother Dončić a bit. But he’s also over-aggressive and foul-prone. The Warriors will need to avoid that matchup if they’re in the bonus or trying to avoid it.”
Kuminga is coming off an up-and-down semifinal series against the Grizzlies. While he moved into the starting lineup after injuries to Gary Payton II and Andre Iguodala, Kuminga came back out when Grizzlies moved Steven Adams into the starting lineup. In Game 6, Kuminga stayed on the bench while the Warriors countered Adams with veteran big man Kevon Looney, who had a career-high 22 rebounds including 11 on the offensive end.
The Warriors could have more options to use against Doncic, with Iguodala working his way back from a neck injury and potentially returning this series.
Doncic Wary of Warriors
Whoever draws the defensive assignment for the Warriors, containing Doncic could be a difficult task. The Mavericks guard was dominant in leading the Mavericks to a 123-90 rout of the Phoenix Suns in Game 7, scoring 35 points with 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals — all in 30 minutes before sitting the entire fourth quarter with the agme easily in hand.
But Doncic is equally wary of the Warriors, especially versatile big man Draymond Green.
“I have so much respect for Draymond, man,” Doncic told reporters on May 17, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “Obviously, Klay and Steph [are] incredible offensive guys. The key to the Warriors team is Draymond. He is just unbelievable. I really respect him – everything he does. Obviously, no disrespect, but he’s not the best offensive guy. But he impacts the game in every other category. So, I really have a lot of respect for the guy.”