The Dallas Mavericks will meet the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday for what very well could be a preview of a first round playoff match-up. Fans have spent months hoping that the Mavericks running into the Clippers in the playoffs could be avoided, but now it looks inevitable. The Clippers are a downright scary team. The combination of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with their incredible bench depth makes them difficult to defeat.
Dallas has faced the Clippers twice this season, losing both times. The first game in November, Leonard and George combined for 54 points. The Clippers were without George in the second game in January, but that didn’t stop Leonard from scoring 36 points, stealing the ball three times, and blocking two shots. Understanding this is likely a preview of the upcoming playoffs, we’ll all be watching this game with a little more emphasis.
Can the wings survive?
The Clippers wings have had a field day against the Mavericks this season. Dallas has yet to find a favorable assignment for either of the Clippers’ stars this season.
It’s not just on the offensive side that these wings have an impact. On the defensive side of the ball, they have made Dorian Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. non-factors offensively. In the two games against the Clippers this season, Finney-Smith and Hardaway Jr. have a plus-minus of negative 9 when on the court together. They also have posted an offensive rating of only 97.4 per NBA.com/Stats‘s formula. If the Mavericks want to win this one, their wings will have to find some way to be a positive.
Can the bench survive?
It was anticipated that they’d struggle with the losses of Dwight Powell, Courtney Lee, and Jalen Brunson, but the Mavericks’ bench is proving to be a very gloomy area. The bench averaged 35.5 points per game in play before the shutdown. In their three games in Orlando, they’ve averaged a flat 30 points off the bench. This may not look too bad, but that’s including a 31 point opening night from Trey Burke.
They’ll be facing the best bench in the league in the Clippers, which averages 50.8 points per game. The Clippers are hosts to not one, but two candidates for sixth man of the year: Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. The Clippers will be without Harrell in this one, who is outside of the bubble for a family emergency. Williams will be out of his mandated quarantine and be available to play, barring any future wing cravings. If the Mavericks can’t keep up with a Clippers bench that’s not entirely whole, it could be very bad news come playoff time.
Can they survive, period?
According to Basketball Reference’s Playoff Probabilities Report, the Clippers have a 93 percent chance to be the two seed. That could’ve been expected with the Lakers locked as the one seed, but unfortunately the Mavericks also have a 93 percent chance of being the seven seed. Statistics from this game will be important to note, but so will the eye-test. What rotations exploit the Clippers weaknesses? Which Maverick can attack their defense best? What bench player will lead the group? There are plenty of questions that can hopefully be answered before the playoff series.
How to watch
This game tips-off at 5:30 PM Central and will be nationally broadcast on TNT. It will also be broadcast locally on FSSW per usual.