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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks face the Clippers

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The Mavericks look to avoid an 0-3 start against the 2-0 Clippers.

Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks - Game Six Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The NBA didn’t make the Dallas Mavericks wait long to get another shot at the team that knocked them out of the playoffs as the Clippers and Mavericks will tip-off at the Staples Center for some Sunday matinee hoops.

The Mavericks stumbled out of the gate this season, losing to the Suns and Lakers looking relatively flat in both games, while the Clippers have started strong beating both the Lakers and Nuggets.

Kawhi Leonard left Friday’s game early and received eight stitches on a laceration near his mouth, and as of this writing, his status is not clear. Other than that here’s what we’re watching for Sunday afternoon:

The Mavericks need to start well

In about as small of a sample size as one could get, the Mavericks have lost both first quarters and are averaging 26 first-quarter points while shooting 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from three. Those numbers aren’t devastating, but as Josh wrote earlier, the Mavericks follow the cue of Luka Doncic, and he hasn’t been great connecting on only 31 percent of his attempts in the opening frame. The numbers aren’t much better for the entire first half, either.

For a team whose identity is formed by a lethal offense, starting out flat cripples the team and seeps through to all facets of the game. The Mavericks have been punched in the mouth and forced to react so far, but they need to deliver the first blow against the red hot Clippers.

The Mavericks need to hit a few more threes

Last season Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith and Luka Doncic shot 40, 37, 38 and 32 percent from three respectively. This season those same players are shooting 31, 33, 25 and 18(!!) percent respectively. That simply won’t get it done and when factoring in lack of rebounding results in blowouts like Christmas day’s game against the Lakers. I can’t honestly say it will get better because those players all shot at career-best marks last season.

Defensive matchups

The Clippers abused the Mavericks' lack of perimeter defenders in the playoffs, so the Mavericks swapped one of the game’s elite shooters in Seth Curry for Josh Richardson to help shore up the team’s wing defenders. Now, Dallas has the opportunity to guard Leonard (if he plays) and Paul George with Finney-Smith and Richardson so someone like Hardaway doesn’t have to. Strangely, Doncic was matched up with LeBron James many times Friday while Richardson checked Marc Gasol.

I’m not going to pretend to know what Rick Carlisle was doing, but the defensive assignments might not be as simple as outlined above. Whatever the Mavericks do, slowing down George will be paramount who has raced out of the gates, contributing 28 points, nearly six rebounds, and six assists while shooting nearly 66 percent from the field and a blistering 59 percent from deep on almost nine attempts per game.

How to watch

The game tips off at 2:30 CT and can be watched on NBA TV.