Who can forget the first game these two teams played back in December? The first rematch since the Mavs forced the Clippers to a game 6 in their first round series. A series which included a mind-bending game 4 that gave us a Luka Doncic buzzer-beating game winner that will surely appear in every career highlight video of his from now until eternity.
As exhilarated as that single shot made fans feel for a brief and shining moment, the game back in December must’ve given them something nearly as good. Dallas went completely nuclear on L.A. for 48 straight minutes in a game they won 124-73; their second-largest margin of victory in team history.
Since that game, the two team’s seasons went in different directions. The Clippers shook it off, steadied the ship, and now sit at 4th in the West. Maybe a bit lower than they’d like, but if ever there was a team that didn’t care about regular season basketball, it’s this incarnation of the L.A. Clippers. The Mavericks, on the other hand, have been on the textbook definition of a roller coaster season. Injuries, Covid trouble, and slogging through the league’s most difficult schedule had Dallas down and out through January, with the playoffs no longer looking like a guarantee.
Since turning the page to February, the Mavs have been a team on a mission, and have been playing like one of the league’s hottest teams with a 7-3 record over their last 10 games. The Clippers, meanwhile, are just 4-6, with some head-scratching losses to teams like the Washington Wizards.
All that to say! Who knows. The Clippers are an astoundingly weird team which seemingly has the capacity to either destroy or self destruct during any given game. They have two All-NBA talents to match their All-NBA desire to just have it be the playoffs already. We’ll see which version Dallas gets Monday night.
After catching Denver on the second night of a back-to-back, Dallas lucks out again as they’ll be playing a Clippers team coming off their game against New Orleans on Sunday.
Time will tell what L.A.’s lineup looks like at game time, but it seems like a fairly solid bet that Kawhi Leonard, perhaps the Godfather of load management, could be taking the day off. If that’s the case, Dallas shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Securing this win would keep the immaculate vibes rolling during a time when team morale seems high and would also lock up any necessary head-to-head tiebreakers with the Clippers should that become a thing that’s important.
Not even our final form
At the time of blowout in December, one of the more shocking aspects of the game (other than the final score), was that Dallas wasn’t even fully healthy. Losing the All-Bubble version of Kristaps Porzingis during their series robbed us of knowing if Dallas could have shocked the NBA world. To do what they did against a full strength Clippers squad sans KP was in direct opposition to the outcome in the playoffs.
Well, here we are again, this time with Dallas looking like the full strength squad against a tired L.A. group and Kristaps Porzingis (nice of him to join us) finally looking like he’s rounding into shape after a sometimes brutal start to the season as he worked back from knee surgery.
Defensive gut check
Dallas started the season looking like a greatly improved defensive team. That all changed as the lineup was in constant flux through February, and Dallas was playing positively putrid on the defensive end for a good stretch of the season. Things seem to have taken a turn for the better in recent weeks. As The Ringer’s piece on Dallas’ Defensive Player of the Game belt mentions, the added focus to individual defensive contributors, along with, you know, actually getting to practice together for maybe the first time all season, has Dallas’ defensive stats on the come up.
A team like the Clippers seems purpose-built to test how much Dallas has really improved on that side of the ball. With big wing scorers like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard (should they both play), Dallas should get a decent sense of how much work there is still to do. A good takeaway, especially in the not-so-unlikely event these two teams are face to face again in the post season.
How to watch
This home game for some reason starts at the wholy unreasonable time of 8:00 p.m. CST and should be on Fox Sports SW or NBA League Pass.