Clippers-Mavericks: X-factors, key matchups, and a prediction

LA Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)
LA Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) /
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Dallas Mavericks
Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports) /

Digging deeper into the first-round NBA Playoff matchup between the LA Clippers and Dallas Mavericks. 

This first-round matchup in the NBA Playoffs is a rematch of last year’s first-round matchup in the NBA Bubble. Last year’s series featured a game-winning shot at the buzzer from Luka Doncic in Game 2, a few ejections and scuffles, and ultimately ended in six games after the LA Clippers regrouped and overcame the Dallas Mavericks.

A noble effort from the Mavericks to take the Clippers that deep without their second-best player in Kristaps Porzingis for the last four games of the series due to injury. Although the storylines are similar to last year, both teams’ personnel are very different.

For the Clippers, they’ve added role players like Serge Ibaka and Rajon Rondo, along with the hiring of head coach Tyronn Lue. For the Mavericks, they’ve got a few new faces and the availability of Porzingis on their side. Last year, the Clippers were the heavy favorite and Dallas was clearly an underdog as the 7-seed. This season, the Clippers are still the favorite but seem to be more evenly matched with the likes of Luka and the rest of the Dallas Mavericks.

It should make for an interesting series.

After a concerning 9-14 start to the first 25 games of the season, the Mavericks bared down and simply started to win more and more as the season went along. The Mavericks shined in February and through the rest of the season with three 4-game win streaks and a 5-game win streak at the end of March and on until early April.

Doncic earned himself his second all-star bid in just his third year in the league and will surely be on one of the All-NBA teams by the seasons’ end. During Dallas’s turnaround not only was Doncic terrific, but even their role players stepped up in many of their wins this season.

Tim Hardaway Jr. was the leading scorer in five of their wins this season. The former Michigan Wolverine even had a 42-point game in a win over Detroit in late April. Dallas also has had solid performances from Max Kleber, Jalen Brunson, Josh Richardson, and their highest-paid player Porzingis. Like many teams, Dallas had a few injuries during the season, but none were bigger than that of Porzingis who played in just 43 of the 72-game season.

It seems that Kristaps will be ready to play in the first round. This is huge considering he is Dallas’s second-best player and missed the final four games of last year’s first-round matchup against the Clippers.

The Clippers’ season overall has been good. Nagging injuries played a huge part in a lot of their losses. Not having one of your leaders in Patrick Beverly for half the season was a contributing factor. Beverly, not a huge talent, but is a scrappy tone-setter for the rest of the players on the team.

Despite that, the Clippers have had a season of good wins with the inevitable losing skid here or there, but generally speaking, the Clippers are a top team in the NBA still. The Clippers are at the forefront of load management and resting of their star players. With that, your regular-season record can suffer a bit as Paul George played 54 of the 72 games and Kawhi Leonard played 52 of the 72 games.

Could their record have been better if they didn’t do that? Of course, but they still have homecourt in the first round and most of all they have their two best players available. Availability is the name of the game and for the Clippers, they have it as of right now.