The Dallas Mavericks (7-5) host the Los Angeles Clippers (8-6) tonight at the American Airlines Center. The 7:30 pm tipoff marks the first meeting this season between two teams with sky-high expectations. It is also a chance to revisit a playoff rivalry - as many of the same faces remain on both squads from those two grueling postseason matchups.
The Mavericks prevailed 117-112 over the Trailblazers on Saturday night. Good ball movement and catching fire from deep at just the right time saved the Mavs from a third straight loss.
The Clippers are coming into Dallas fresh off a swing through Houston last night. The Mavericks catch yet another early season scheduling break as they face yet another team on the second night of a back-to-back scenario - while Dallas enjoyed the last two days off.
Spencer for hire, on fire
When the Mavericks struggled on the road in back-to-back games, the lone bright spot was Spencer Dinwiddie increasing his output when it was clear Dallas needed everything he had. On Wednesday against the Orlando Magic, Dinwiddie posted a season-high 29 points only to eclipse that mark the next night with 33 points against the Wizards. Most notably, Spencer is on an absolute heater from beyond the arc - going 17-30 (56.67%) over his last three games. The last three of those came in succession and fueled the Mavericks’ surge past Portland.
Dinwiddie was asked after the Portland game how he reconciles the career three-point percentage (32%) with his much higher accuracy since joining Dallas (40.4 last season after the trade and 45.9 so far this year). He answered, “it's just a byproduct of our team, our play style...I think historically if you look at my career, I’ve been a pretty solid catch-and-shoot shooter...and then obviously I think I am decent at the harder shots...the ratio with which I took harder shots, late clock, end-of-game, step backs compared to the quality ones, catch and shoots, trailers, things like that was just at a different ratio than it has been in my Mavericks tenure. You take more good shots and less bad shots...and you also start making more bad shots because you also get to find it a little bit.”
Essentially, not all three-point shots are created equal. Bail out threes with a hand in your face in Brooklyn versus swing, swing, ready-to-shoot threes in Dallas. The Mavericks - largely thanks to the floor gravity Luka Doncic provides his teammates - can offer someone like Dinwiddie many more clean looks than he was able to procure at his previous stops. Combine those clean looks with the positive reinforcement he has noted receiving immediately after the trade that landed Spencer in Dallas and you have a recipe for success. This is where scouting and perhaps just plain luck can find hidden talent in an NBA player that has been laying dormant for years waiting for the right environment to flourish. Keep an eye on Dinwiddie against the Clippers to see what sort of shot quality he can find.
Clipper secondary scoring is key
Even with Kawhi Leonard likely to be unavailable tonight, the Clippers always provide Dallas with a challenge. A key for this game will once again be the Mavericks' ability to limit secondary options from having high a high-output scoring effort. Paul George will get his 20-30, sometimes more - but it is big nights by Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, or Norman Powell that could sink Dallas. As the game unfolds, watch for whether Dallas chooses to double George and leave shooters with more space or stay at home on the auxiliary scoring options for LA.
The return of small ball
The closing lineup against Portland did not feature Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell, or Christian Wood (who had just fouled out after a brilliant game). Instead, we saw the return of the small-ball lineup.
Playing Dorian Finney-Smith at the five down the stretch against Portland allowed Dallas to play a five-out style and space the floor for quick passes much like we saw for important stretches last season and in the playoffs. The Clippers are a candidate to receive the same closing strategy as they do not have a big man poised to punish a small ball lineup and are much more likely to respond in kind.
Where to watch
Catch the Mavericks as they take on the Clippers at 7:30 pm on Bally Sports Southwest.