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Mavericks at Clippers preview: Dallas' new defense will be put to the test

The Mavericks head to LA to face the Clippers Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is at 2:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Southwest.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the first of three games the Mavericks play against the Clippers this season. What can we expect?

What have the Clippers done lately?

As Mavericks fans well know, it can be brutal to break out of the middle of the pack in the West. Despite winning more than 66 percent of their games and boasting the third most efficient offense in the league, the Clippers are sitting a game and a half behind fourth-ranked Dallas at sixth in the Western Conference.

They opened the season struggling to get out of a .500 rut, alternating wins and losses for the first month of the season before settling in for a late November to early December nine-game winning streak. This was in part thanks to a relatively weak patch in their schedule during which they notched victories over the Timberwolves and the Magic, as well as the Pistons with Josh Smith and the Rockets without Dwight Howard. Since then they've had the chance to pad their record with consecutive games against the Jazz, Knicks, and Sixers (though they also had an impressive win over Golden State), so this game against Dallas will be one of their tougher challenges lately.

What team stat could determine the game?

While Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan are both phenomenal big men to watch, the most telling part of this game may be what happens on the perimeter. On paper for the season, these teams look kind of similar overall: the Mavericks have the most efficient offense and the 16th ranked defense in league, compared to the Clippers third best offense and 15th best defense. But unlike the Mavericks, the Clippers haven't recently acquired one of the best defensive-minded guards in the league, so what happens if you just look at perimeter defense lately?

Before Rondo's first game, the Mavericks were the absolute worst in the league at allowing opponents to shoot and make threes, while the Clippers were one of the 10 best teams on this metric. Since the trade, things have flipped: the Mavericks have just snuck into the top 10 and the Clippers have dropped to fourth-worst in the league. The Clippers are the second best three-point shooting team in the league, so Dallas' newfound defensive prowess will be important in this game. The Mavericks may also be able to take advantage of the Clippers' recent slide on perimeter defense.

What stat may surprise you about the Clippers?

If you only watch Clippers highlights (some of us live on the East Coast and are too old to stay up for West Coast games), it's easy to think of them as a team that works a lot in the paint, but they earned their third-best offensive rating with the stellar three-point shooting discussed above. They score a league-lowest 33.3 percent of their points in the paint despite the fact that most of those points look really, really awesome, and their opponents actually shoot quite well close to the basket.

And while DeAndre Jordan may be a monster when it comes to grabbing rebounds, as a team they're just average overall, though like other Doc Rivers teams before them, this is largely due to a strategic decision to forgo offensive rebounds to get back on defense.

Speaking of the Clippers in the paint, do you think this will work against Tyson Chandler?

The game tips off Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Central. We'll have a great Q&A with our sister blog, Clips Nation, for you in the morning!