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5-on-5: Mavs-Warriors on ESPN

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As time goes on Curry keeps getting better (1:04)

Tom Haberstroh goes inside the numbers to show how insane Stephen Curry is in the fourth quarter. (1:04)

Fresh off an impressive blowout win over the San Antonio Spurs, the Golden State Warriors are back on the court against the Dallas Mavericks (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN & WatchESPN).

As Steph Curry & Co. continue their quest for 73 wins, where could their next loss fall on the schedule? As for Dallas, what does the return of Chandler Parsons -- averaging 29.0 points over his past three games -- mean for the Mavs down the stretch? And is a deadline move in order?

Our panel breaks down both teams ahead of their Wednesday night matchup.


1. Pick Golden State's next loss.

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Feb. 27 at Oklahoma City. Yeah, a month from now. It's not quite as far-fetched when you take the eight-day gap between games for the All-Star break into account. The Thunder have always been a tough matchup for the Warriors, and with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant they have two chances to out-supernova Curry, where most teams don't even have one.

Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine: Feb. 19 at Portland. There's no rhyme or reason for the Warriors' losses, but they will lose again at some point, so I'll say their three All-Stars will be a bit sluggish in their first game after being celebrated in Toronto. Also, likely snub Damian Lillard of Portland will be out to prove something, and he and C.J. McCollum will catch fire from deep.

Tim MacMahon, ESPN.com: I'll pick at Oklahoma City on Feb. 27, but I sure wouldn't put my money on it. I would bet on the Warriors breaking the Bulls' record for wins in a season, though. Durant and Westbrook, the only duo of top-five players in the league, give the Thunder a decent chance to beat anyone. This collection of talent makes for one of the NBA's most entertaining matchups, too.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN.com: I'll go Feb. 22 in Atlanta. Long flight, no time to practice, essentially the situation that preceded Golden State's blowout loss in Detroit. Also, we must account for the expected Kent Bazemore revenge game.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: They have a six-game road trip right after the All-Star break. Maybe they'll lose one of those games. The less precise but more realistic answer is that they'll probably lose a game somewhere we don't expect. Common sense says they can't keep their focus as sharp as it has been in these clinics lately against Cleveland, Chicago and San Antonio. But these Warriors seem to be rewriting the rules.


2. Who's the Warriors' most surprising first-half performer?

Adande: Brandon Rush. The Warriors went 20-3 with him in the starting lineup. He hadn't played more than half of his team's games since 2011-12. The Warriors could set a record for most victories in a season and he might be able to claim to be a starter in more than 25 percent of them. If that's not surprising now, it will be decades from now when another team closes in on the all-time record and people check the stats of this Warriors team.

Broussard: Draymond Green, without question. Sure we all knew he was very good, but when Jerry West first mentioned early in the season that he's a top-10 player in the league, everyone thought West had lost his marbles. Now, after Green has become a triple-double machine? West's opinion is hotly debated, with many agreeing with him, some even to the point that they consider Green as valuable as Curry to the Warriors' success.

MacMahon: The reigning MVP. Curry got much better the year after proving he belonged in the conversation about the NBA's best player. He's the best shooter and the best shot creator we've ever seen and just keeps extending his ridiculously unprecedented range and improving his handle. He routinely makes shots that would get most players benched. The prime of a legend is just beginning.

Strauss: Stephen Curry. I thought he'd be better, but I didn't expect "better" to mean best statistical guard season in NBA history. Crazy as it sounds, that's the pace he's on. Account for the fourth quarters Curry is resting and he's scoring at a Michael Jordan pace, but far more efficiently. This doesn't mean 2016 Curry is "better" than Mike -- it's difficult to compare across eras. Still, Curry outpacing Jordan's statistical production is something few, if anybody saw coming.

Stein: Luke Walton. He was so calm and comfortable sitting in Steve Kerr's chair, and I think too many folks out there just take for granted how hard that was for a 35-year-old with no head-coaching experience. I knew he had great potential, but Luke made it look so much easier than it really was. Please don't buy into that "anybody could coach these guys" stuff.


3. Who's the Mavs' most surprising first-half performer?

Adande: Wesley Matthews. It's still less than a year since he ruptured his Achilles tendon, and he's putting up numbers pretty close to his last season in Portland while learning the new surroundings in Dallas. It has been a better-than-expected payoff for the Mavericks this early. (Matthews' lone signing regret might be that he didn't head to the Eastern Conference so he could see the Wizards more than twice a year. He made 16 3-pointers in two games against them.)

Broussard: Zaza Pachulia. Who would've thought that he'd average a career high in rebounds (by far!) and his most points per game since 2007? Not to mention nearly gaining a wholly unwarranted but still somewhat telling starting spot in the All-Star Game.

MacMahon: Pachulia is averaging a double-double for the first time in his career during his 13th NBA season. Acquiring Pachulia for virtually nothing after the DeAndre Jordan summer disaster is a major reason the Mavs are in the West playoff pack. But he's averaging his most minutes since 2005-06, and that has taken a toll. Pachulia has missed the past two games because of soreness in his right Achilles tendon, which he had surgically repaired in March 2013.

Strauss: Salah Mejri. It's hard to get more surprising than "30-year-old rookie from Tunisia." Mejri has been good in what little action I've seen him. I like how he runs the floor and makes effort plays (like these blocks of Durant and Westbrook). Perhaps some scouting will end Mejri-mania, but I hope not. He has been a blast to watch.

Stein: It's an obvious answer but, like Walton, you can't say enough about what Pachulia has given them. He's really been one of the season's great stories, playing better than ever in his 13th season when Dallas was desperate for a big man after the Jordan fiasco.


4. Fact or fiction: A healthy Chandler Parsons makes Dallas a contender for a top-4 seed out West.

Adande: Fact. Mainly because an unhealthy Blake Griffin makes the Clippers so vulnerable. The Mavericks are only four games behind the Clippers, and after they get Wednesday's game against the Warriors out of the way they face only three current Western Conference playoff teams through the end of February.

Broussard: Fiction. Parsons is overpaid and overrated. The Mavs will be lucky to hold off Houston for the sixth seed.

MacMahon: Fiction. The Mavs are more likely to finish seventh than fourth. See the standings: Dallas is four games behind the Clippers and only one ahead of the Rockets. Parsons can prove his worth as a long-term foundation piece, but the Mavs are still as high maintenance medically as any team in the league. The hope is that they can get to the playoffs healthy and pull off an upset.

Strauss: Fiction. Parsons is a nice piece, but unless more Clippers plan on punching team employees, the Mavs aren't getting to their level. Rick Carlisle has done an admirable job with the talent at his disposal, but Dallas just doesn't have enough to compete with top-tier West teams.

Stein: Fiction. The Clippers and Rockets certainly have their issues, but both teams should finish higher than Dallas in the West, even if Parsons and Matthews continue to inch closer to full capacity after their injury struggles. The Mavs are overachieving as it is. This isn't a top-four-in-the-West roster.


5. Fact or fiction: The Mavs need to make a splash at the trade deadline.

Adande: Fiction. They already are integrating enough new pieces -- they don't need drastic change. And if Matthews continues making progress from his injury, the Mavericks will be improved without having to make a deal. Same thing with Parsons rounding into form. Besides, they might be gun-shy from their last attempt to make a splashy transaction. With the Mavericks' luck they'd swing a big trade only to have the new player fail his physical.

Broussard: Fact. Just about everyone outside of Golden State needs to make a splash. Where are the Mavs going? To the first round and out, certainly. They need to make a major move to even get in the same class as the Thunder and the Clippers, let alone the real contenders. The move they need, however, most likely is not going to happen.

MacMahon: Fiction. It'd be nice to get a shooter like, say, Kevin Martin if Minnesota looks to move his contract. But the Mavs don't need to give up good future assets to make a win-now deal, not that they have much to offer. They can't give up a first-round pick, because they still owe the Celtics for last season's Rajon Rondo catastrophe.

Strauss: Fiction. They should explore every option, but there's little impetus to suddenly improve right now. Better that they bide their time and wait for the right opportunity. Also: This advice probably applies to every team outside of maybe Cleveland.

Stein: Fiction. They need to make a splash this summer in free agency. They don't have to rush ‎into anything now and I'm not so sure they have the trade assets to get a game-changing deal done in the next 20-odd days. But they need to make some impact moves, be it signings or trades, with their cap space in July. Or that'll be five mostly fruitless offseasons in a row since Dallas' championship in 2011.