It’s a repeat of last season’s heated first-round match-up. The Los Angeles Clippers have a new supporting cast but are lead by the two same superstars. The Dallas Mavericks are healthy and are looking for revenge lead by their European star duo. All bets are off when it comes to a four-seed versus five-seed match-up in the NBA playoffs.
NBA Playoffs Preview: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks
The Regular Season
The Clippers are fresh off a regular season in which they finished 47-25. Listed as a four-seed, many believed they would finish higher than that. Midseason injuries contributed to a small slide, however, but the Clippers are loaded. Compared to last season, the Clippers revamped their supporting cast as well.
Dallas, on the other hand, finished with a respectable 42-30 record. After starting the season with an 8-13 record, they bounced back to go 39-17 after the fact. The rough start, however, can be attributed to injuries and a myriad of COVID-19 positive tests as well as NBA health protocols.
The Mavericks have actually had the upper hand in the regular-season series between the two clubs. Dallas won the first match-up by 51 (yes, you read that correctly) points, and then the two teams split a three-day series in mid-March.
Los Angeles’ starting frontcourt is the same as last season’s series, featuring Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris, and Kawhi Leonard. Zubac and Morris are terrific utility players who know their roles and perform them well. Kawhi, of course, is one of the league’s superstars on both ends of the court. He finished this season averaging 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game.
Frontcourt depth was addressed during the last offseason and throughout the season, and it looks strong for the Clippers. They’ve added three veterans in Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, and DeMarcus Cousins. Sure, the three aren’t as good as they were five years ago, but they fit their roles well and create fantastic depth.
On the other side, the Mavericks’ frontcourt features Dwight Powell, Kristaps Porzingis, and Dorian Finney-Smith. Powell and Finney-Smith are similar to Zubac and Morris in where they know their roles and perform them well. Both have actually stepped up quite well this season. Porzingis is the Mavericks’ x-factor. He missed much of the playoff series last season due to an ejection and injury, which certainly affected Dallas. The big man is capable of dropping a 20+ point double-double on any given night and will have to be at his best for Dallas to have a shot.
The supporting cast includes Maxi Kleber, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Nicolo Melli. The main player is Kleber, as he’s Dallas’s biggest defensive force. He’s also an excellent catch-and-shoot player from deep but failed to show this in the playoff series last season.
Advantage: Los Angeles Clippers.
The starting guards for the Clippers are Patrick Beverley and Paul George. Beverley is a hound on the defensive end and an expert in getting into the opponent’s heads. He used this versus the Mavericks last season and will certainly do it again. George, of course, is the Clippers’ backcourt start. He can play many positions but primarily features at shooting guard here. His shooting has been terrific all year, and he’ll look to avoid the slump he faced against Dallas last year.
Primary bench options for the Clippers include Reggie Jackson, Rajon Rondo, and Luke Kennard. Rondo was a catalyst in the Los Angeles Lakers’ run to the title last year and will look to do the same for the Clippers. His murky background with the Mavericks is also a storyline to keep an eye on.
Luka Doncic is the face of the Mavericks, and not just in the backcourt. He finished another terrific season, averaging roughly 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists per game. The do-it-all guard from Slovenia performed admirably all season long and is a safe bet for the All-NBA First Team. In addition, he starred versus the Clippers last season, including his out-of-this-world game-winner.
Doncic’s partner in the starting backcourt is Josh Richardson. Brought in for Seth Curry the last offseason, Richardson has struggled for much of the year. He was specifically brought in to guard players like George, so now is the time to prove his worth.
The supporting cast includes Tim Hardaway Jr., Jalen Brunson, Trey Burke, and J.J. Redick. Hardaway Jr. and Brunson are primary scoring options off the bench and must continue that trend. They’re both fresh off stellar regular seasons. Burke also showed out versus the Clippers last year. Lastly, the Mavericks need a healthy Redick to be both a veteran leader and a three-point sniper.
Advantage: Dallas Mavericks
Coaching and Intangibles
Ty Lue is the Clippers’ coach. His years of experience may be lower than many other coaches, but his track record speaks for itself. He’s coached some of the best teams in recent memory and is continuing that trend with the Clippers.
On the other side, Rick Carlisle features as the Mavericks coach. He has decades of experience under his belt and has been with Dallas since 2008.
This Clippers team holds a major advantage when it comes to experience. Leonard has won a championship before, while George has featured in several terrific playoff match-ups. Rondo and Ibaka are also two notable veteran leaders.
Dallas is still a very young team. Redick is really the only player on the roster who holds legitimate playoff experience. Youth can certainly be an advantage, but time and time again experience trumps all in the NBA.
Advantage: Los Angeles Clippers
Final Prediction: Los Angeles Clippers in Seven
There’s no doubt that this will be a terrific series. There are stars on both teams and last season’s match-up was fiery and creates several storylines. Expect crazy finishes, many technical fouls, and highlight plays.
Doncic will pour in 30+ point triple-doubles, but the Leonard and George duo will prove to be too much. The Clippers’ frontcourt will also overpower that of the Mavericks.
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