The Dallas Mavericks will enter Sunday’s Game 4 down 2-1 to the Clippers. Despite all of the obstacles this team has faced, both of their losses have been by only eight points. Now, in this pivotal Game 4, a few massive unknowns hang over the Mavericks’ head.
Luka Doncic’s Health
Right now, it’s unclear whether or not Doncic will be active in Game 4. Knowing his competitive mindset, I’m sure he will do everything in his power to be active. Still, it’s inevitable to disregard how serious Doncic’s ankle sprain looked and how ineffective he was when he tried to come back on the court. Listed as a “game-time” decision, we likely won’t know if he’s playing or not until right before tip. Even if he does play, will he still be able to contribute with a lack of explosiveness? This is undoubtedly the biggest question mark facing the Mavericks in this series.
How do you stop Kawhi Leonard?
Kawhi Leonard is one of the best players in this league. The combination of his speed, strength, and jump-shot is a nightmare. To try and slow him down, the Mavericks have started Maxi Kleber to be Leonard’s primary defender. Kleber has guarded Leonard for nearly 18 minutes this series, far more than any other Maverick. In those 18 minutes, Leonard has made 17-of-39 (43.6 percent) shots. Shooting 47 percent from the field this season, Kleber is doing a good job at containing Leonard as much as he can. One area where Kleber appears to be particularly sharp is defending Leonard behind the arc. Leonard has made just 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) three-pointers in the series, over 14 percent below his season average of 37.8. Still, even with the good defense of Kleber, Leonard has scored an incredible 100 points in the first three games. Is it time the Mavericks start thinking of a double-team, or will that put them at even more risk defensively?
The Battle of the Benches
Leading up to the playoffs, there was one area I feared the Mavericks would get ran off the court: when Luka Doncic needed a breather. Despite their bench missing a handful of key players, their bench unit has the fifth highest scoring average in the playoffs. A large part of that has been the switch to move Seth Curry onto the bench, who is averaging 17.0 points per game in the series. The Mavericks have also seen some great production from their most recent signing, Trey Burke, who’s averaging 9.3 points per game. Meanwhile the Clippers are only the ninth highest scoring bench. The question is if the Mavericks can continue their high scoring off the bench if they make an adjustment in response to Doncic’s injury. Dallas will likely have to insert Burke or Curry into the lineup if Doncic sits, handing their bench scoring a big hit.
Where to Watch
Game 4 will be broadcast on ABC at 2:30 pm CT Sunday.