We’ve got some time before the series starts and there’s still time to analyze this match up to death. Before all that happens, though, what’s your gut say about this series? Give a prediction from the heart.
Jeffrey: I think the Mavericks avenge their loss last year with a series win against the clippers in six games. The Mavericks have the best player in the series in Luka, and the better coach who thrives in making in-series adjustments. The Mavericks are an improved team from last season with different looks to throw at the Clippers. With a rested and healthy Doncic and Porzingis, the Mavs will give the Clippers fits. If they can find an answer for Ivica Zubac who has killed them this year and their 3 point shooting is at a respectable clip, they will oust the Clippers from the playoffs and make them pay for their late season tanking.
Matthew: I believe the Mavs win in 6. I don’t believe Kawhi is healthy. He’s only played 7 of the clippers last 18 games, and only averaged 17/6/6 with less than 1 total combined blocks and steals. While the Clippers clearly tanked the last two games, they were still 4-6 in their last ten games. The last Clippers win that Serge Ibaka played in was March 11. The Clippers are a good defensive team but they concede switches too easily which I believe will contribute to their undoing. I would really like to see the mavs first have whomever Reggie Jackson or Patrick Beverly is guarding screen for Luka which will get them on Luka and then see Luka run P/R with Porzingis, creating a bigger advantage for KP once the Clippers inevitably switch that as well. Also as a person who believes referees influence games and series much more than some people would like to admit, I believe the Clippers likely get a less friendly whistle than normal, due to their shenanigans to get out of the Lakers side of the bracket.
Ben: My gut says Clippers in five. They’re built to defend the Mavericks. They’ll bother Luka and the Mavericks’ shooters with their length. Dallas has no answer for Kawhi Leonard on the offensive end. This year’s Clippers are a much better team than the squad the Mavericks faced in the bubble. But! There’s a chance the Mavericks’ role players shoot out of their minds for 10 days and Dallas somehow pulls off an upset. Anything is possible with Luka Magic.
Doyle: I wish I was confident that this series will look any different than the one we saw in the bubble last year. Health, specifically that of the Mavericks, will be a huge factor in the series. We don’t know the status of Maxi Kleber, who missed several games to end the season. JJ Redick might not play again. Porzingis is Porzingis. Meanwhile, the Clippers are relatively healthy. Obviously, anything can happen, but the Clippers, as cowardly as they are for trying to duck the Lakers, are the better team on paper. L.A. takes the series in six games.
Jordan: From the heart? Mavs in 7. From the head? Clippers in 6. Listen, the Mavericks are sort of impossible to predict. They often look lifeless and uninterested, but they’ve also taken it to the best teams in the league all year. Even though there are one or two new players on both sides, I’m curious what it looks like for Rick Carlisle to have a second shot at a team a year later. That hasn’t happened in Dallas, and Rick is a series wizard. The Clippers are designed to shut a team like the Mavs down. But if they can stay healthy and the role players are hitting (and those are big IF’s), the Mavericks may scare the Clippers more this time around than the last.
Matt: Mavs in 7, Clippers in shambles, franchise moves to Las Vegas. Rick is a petty lunatic and he will simply not allow himself to be beaten by the same team two playoff series in a row. Especially one that pulled off a world-class tank job for the privilege to face Dallas in the first round. The last time Dallas had this much rest (after the Texas-wide snowpacalypse back in February) they hit the floor looking like a team on fire. They immediately won 7 of their next 9 games to put them permanently above .500 for the rest of the season. Before the unplanned break, Dallas was looking like a team without footing, still trying to recover from extended Covid absences and build some team unity. Now the Mavericks have a season’s worth of unity and a full weak to heal up and game plan.
David: My gut tells me the Clippers will take the series in 7 games. A couple things stand out to me in this matchup. One, Kawhi gets whatever he wants against Dallas. They don’t have a great one-on-one matchup for him (then again, who does?) and if Maxi Kleber isn’t 100% then our best bet to stop him is out of the equation. Secondly, Ivica Zubac kills Dallas on the inside and I don’t see why he wouldn’t this time around. The last thing that I think is important is Luka’s greatness. He alone gave the Mavericks six games against LA last year and with a healthy Kristaps Porzingis this time around, I see Dallas pushing it seven, but falling to a bad matchup.
Sam: Clippers in six seems like the likely outcome and safest prediction. The Mavericks were severely shorthanded in last season’s playoff series, but they still have their warts this go around. Doyle mentioned the injuries with Kleber and Redic, but Porzingis is working his way back in after a little time on the shelf, and the offseason moves the Mavericks made in direct response to being bullied by the Clippers last year did not pan out, to put it nicely. The Clippers can shoot the lights out, and defend Doncic in many ways. I think Dallas just needs many things to go right (which could happen!) to win the series against a highly motivated Los Angeles squad.
Kirk: Clippers in six but I think Dallas is more competitive, unless Maxi Kleber misses the entire series. The Mavericks have more depth this time around, but the talent on the Clippers should win out, it’s just a question of when. Either way I’m talking myself into this series more than at any point prior to last playoffs. I wanted no part of the Clippers then.