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Mavericks vs. Clippers Preview: 4 things to watch as Dallas takes on LA

Two playoff foes with new look teams set to clash

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks (6-2) will try to rebound from a loss to the Toronto Raptors by welcoming the Los Angeles Clippers to the American Airline Center on Friday night. The game is a NBA mid-season tournament group play game and airs at 7:30 pm CST on Bally Sports Southwest

Toronto’s size was a problem for Dallas, especially missing their promising rookie Dereck Lively due to a non-Covid illness. LA brings a lot of those same big wings with them including, of course, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard – the duo that knocked Luka Doncic and the Mavs out of the playoffs in consecutive years—now, bolstered (arguably) by Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

The Clippers have lost three in a row and their stop in Dallas will be the fourth of a four-game road trip. With any luck, Dallas will be back at full strength and are able to bounce back against a road-weary Clippers squad.

Chairs on the Titanic

Teams where everything is running smoothly don’t pull off a mid-season trade for James Harden. The Clippers, for as much star power as they’ve managed to acquire, are still very much in the experimental phase regarding play style and lineups. They were still trying to fully incorporate Westbrook fully after acquiring him last year when they went and added James “I’m the system” Harden. It’s a roster so front-loaded in the starting five, that the loss of even Mason Plumlee is a significant blow to their depth.

Dallas’ lineups and rotations aren’t a finished product either, but this Clippers team makes them look like the dynastic stability of Manu, Parker, and Duncan.

It’s the lane, stupid

“Dallas has to do better in the paint,” is going to be one of those things this year that you could talk about essentially before every game, but it seems worth bringing up now simply because of how atrociously their last defensive outing against Toronto was in that regard. Josh Bowe tweeted the following after the game.

That’s a nightmare. Dallas doesn’t have to be an iron curtain down there; to be simply “bad” as opposed to “little bro gets dunked on by his high-school brother and all his friends” would likely be enough. That so much of Dallas’ defensive identity is anchored by a rookie seems like a lot of pressure for the new guy, but for now, it’s Lively or bust.

Level set

Dallas’ second-half efficiency has been something to see. After playing the most clutch games in the league last year and winning only a disappointing 47.3% of them (16th in the league), to see how Dallas is finishing games this year has been nothing short of refreshing. However, they’ve had to be, because they’re straight-up terrible in the first.

The loss against Toronto laid bare the shortcomings of such an approach. It’s nice that there’s no panic going into the locker room at halftime with a double-digit deficit, but having to fight and claw all the way back every game for a win doesn’t seem sustainable. For once, it’d be nice to see Dallas dominate the first half, especially against a team like the Clippers, to knock the starters out of the game and cruise to an easy win.

We meet to part...

The star power of the Clippers is evident and, yes, Luka does like to test his mettle against the best of the best. He’s never been scared to switch on to Paul George or Kawhi Leonard. However, the player on the opposing squad that most often gets a rise out of Doncic is Terrance Mann — who remains on the squad despite the shuffling required to land Harden.

Keep an eye on the matchup. Doncic is likely to have some extra motivation to put it on the floor and go at Mann, but hopefully, his temper is somewhat subdued as he already has two technical fouls in just eight games so far this year.

How to watch

You can broadcast or stream the game on Bally at 7:30 CST.