The Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks tip-off tonight in what promises to be one of the most entertaining first-round playoff series. Unlike most two seed versus seven seed match-ups, there’s plenty of storylines attached to this one. Many believe the Clippers are the championship favorites. The Mavericks, on the other hand, have the most explosive offense in NBA history (in terms of offensive rating) and are lead by two budding stars.
NBA Playoff Preview: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks
The backcourt duel in this match-up is going to be very interesting. The Clippers feature a tenacious defensive duo, while the Mavericks have an explosive offensive duo.
Patrick Beverley and Paul George start for the Clippers. Beverley has earned a reputation as an absolute hound on the defensive side of the court and completely deserves that. He’s the player teams hate unless he plays for them. Beverley can also contribute offensively, even though he’s not asked to do much. He’s averaging roughly eight points and four assists per game, along with 39 percent shooting from three.
George is typically a small forward but starts at guard due to a logjam of wings on the Clippers side. His stats have taken a small dip this season, but he’s had injuries and the Clippers have a plethora of offensive weapons. It can’t be forgotten that he was an MVP finalist just last season. At the end of the day, George is going to provide excellent defense and a danger to drop 30 points at any given time.
The Mavericks backcourt features Luka Doncic and Seth Curry. Doncic broke out as arguably the top point guard in the league this year with his 29 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists per game stat line. He’s also just 21 years old. Having to carry the offensive load in his first NBA playoffs won’t be a major challenge to Doncic. He started his professional career as a teenager in Europe and has postseason championship experience there. Sure, the NBA is on another level, but Doncic has shown time and time again that no stage is too big for him.
Curry can do all the little things right. He’s a solid ball-handler, a pesky defender, and above all, an elite shooter. He’s shooting about 45 percent from three this season, and 48 percent from catch and shoot threes, which he will likely live on versus the Clippers exhausting defense.
It’s difficult to give an edge to either backcourt. One is elite defensively, and the other offensively. Both will be key and have to contribute on both ends in this matchup, however.
Like the backcourts, both of these frontcourts are amongst the top in the league.
The Los Angeles frontcourt consists of Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, and Ivica Zubac. Leonard is obviously the star and a top-five NBA player. Last year he was the Finals MVP on the Toronto Raptors, and surely has his eyes set on doing the same for Los Angeles. Most of Leonard’s praise goes towards his defense, and rightfully so, as he can shut down any player in the league. More than that, however, Leonard averages 27 points per game. He can do it all.
Morris is one of the toughest players in the league and an excellent defender. He averages 17 points per game and can stretch the floor, making him a fantastic complementary player to Leonard. Zubac doesn’t receive much attention on the star-studded Clippers squad, but he knows his role and does it well. He can live in the paint and crash the boards just as well as most centers.
The Dallas frontcourt features Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, and Kristaps Porzingis. Hardaway is a shooting guard at heart but shifted to small forward once Curry was inserted into the line-up. Like Curry, Hardaway is an elite spot-up shooter who thrives with a passer like Doncic on the team. He can also be aggressive and drive to the basket which his strong frame. Hardaway is a solid defender by all means, but it’s hard to see him keeping one of George or Leonard at bay.
Finney-Smith is the team’s best perimeter defender. He can play both forward positions as well. He’ll likely be assigned defensive duties on Leonard. Finney-Smith has also grown to be a reliable shooter from range and a menace on the offensive boards. His hustle will be key for Dallas.
Porzingis is the Mavericks’ frontcourt star. Standing at 7’3″, Porzingis has the offensive skill set of a guard. He has one of the best shooting ranges in the entire league and averaged close to 30 points per game in the bubble. His ability to stretch the floor will cause headaches for Zubac.
The Clippers get the frontcourt edge, however. Leonard is a superstar and the best player in this series.
Benches and Coaching
Los Angeles has arguably the best bench in the league. Having two of the three Sixth Man of the Year finalists in Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams will do that for you. Both average over 18 points per game. Harrell is a high-energy board-crasher as well. Williams can run the point and is a walking bucket. The two are starting-caliber players for most teams in the league.
With that being said, the Clippers bench features other great options like Reggie Jackson and Landry Shamet. Jackson is a longtime NBA starter and a sparkplug. Shamet is a three-point sniper and a great perimeter defender. The Clippers have a clear edge on the bench.
Burke has been a standout player who joined before the bubble to replace the injured Jalen Brunson. He’s consistently scored in double-figures since re-joining the Mavericks and is the top offensive player off the bench. Kleber is a starting-caliber forward who brings in the toughness and defense. Expect to see him a lot on the floor simply for his defensive prowess. The same goes for Wright. He’s been a letdown offensively but is a tough defender. Lastly, Marjanovic is often seen as a walking meme, but he can produce on the basketball court. He scores with ease in the paint and is a rebounding beast.
The coaching duel is pretty even. Doc Rivers and Rick Carlisle both have championship pedigrees and are amongst the top coaches in the entire league. Their battle will certainly be entertaining to watch.
Prediction – Los Angeles Clippers
The Mavericks are one of the most entertaining teams in the entire league. Their dedication to scoring the ball, along with their youth, makes them a tough matchup for anybody.
Los Angeles, however, has the experience and a more well-rounded squad. As good as Leonard is, he typically takes it up a notch in the playoffs. Having George by his side this time will only make things better. It won’t be easy, however, but the Clippers will win move on after six games.
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