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Mavericks vs. Clippers preview: 3 things to watch for as Dallas takes on Los Angeles

The Mavericks look to take another game from the Clippers.

Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Fresh off a win against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks look to complete a sweep in Hollywood and notch a win against the Clippers. Dallas is 10-5 and looking good overall, but they’ve been scuffling as of late, losing three of their last five games. The Clippers, meanwhile, are still trying to right their ship after acquiring James Harden earlier in the year. Kawhi Leonard has his team hovering around .500.

The Mavericks come into the game fairly healthy, but with a limping front court. Maxi Kleber is still out, and now Dereck Lively II will miss some time after suffering a back contusion against the Lakers. The Clippers are in even better shape, with no core players on the injured list. But this will be the second night of a back-to-back, and there’s always the risk that Leonard or Paul George will sit.

Here are three things to watch for during the game:

The Mavericks can’t count on the Clippers being out of sync this time

In their first meeting of the year, the Clippers took an early lead and then fell completely apart by the end of the first quarter. Dallas scored 17 unanswered points to close the first and open the second quarter, part of a 33-4 run that blew the game wide open. The Mavericks outscored the Clippers 47-18 in the second quarter.

The Clippers got back on track after that, and outside the second quarter, outscored the Mavericks by 11. Harden scored 14 points in the first quarter, and then failed to score the rest of the game.

“First quarter, felt really good on both ends of the ball,” Harden said afterward. “From there, it just went downhill. Trying to find a balance of not trying to step on anyone’s toes but just trying to, like, still be aggressive myself.”

Harden and the Clippers have got some things figured out now, and Dallas can’t count on a meltdown again. They were outplayed in certain areas during that first matchup, and if they don’t tighten those things up this time, might find themselves on the losing end of this Clippers game.

Limit fouls

The Mavericks allowed the Clippers to shoot 36 free throws, much higher than the 21 per game Dallas usually allows. The Mavericks allow the sixth fewest free throws in the NBA this season. The Clippers boast perimeter players who know how to draw fouls in Leonard, George, Harden, and Russell Westbrook. Dallas needs to remain solid on defense and not gamble for steals. The Clippers turn the ball over 14.3 times per game, 12th in the NBA. They’ll make mistakes on their own.

The paint belongs to Holmes and Powell

With Kleber and Lively out, the Mavericks will turn to new addition Richaun Holmes and forever Maverick Dwight Powell. That’s an undersized duo to man the paint, which isn’t great for Dallas. They routinely get outscored in the paint with Lively and Kleber. The Clippers were plus-12 on points in the paint in their last meeting.

The Clippers have Ivica Zubac, who isn’t offensively dynamic. But he’s big and has nice touch around the rim, so he could cause problems for Dallas. Add in the fact that Leonard and George won’t face much pressure at the rim, and there’s cause for concern. The Mavericks’ perimeter defenders will have to up their game to support the front court reserves being thrust into a bigger role.

How to watch

The game tips off at 9:30 p.m. CST on Bally Sports Southwest and NBA TV.