Clippers at Dallas - Game Preview

2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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17-8

17-11
American Airlines Center
February 13th, 2012, 5:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG Jason Kidd
Randy Foye SG Vince Carter
Caron Butler
SF Shawn Marion
Blake Griffin
PF Dirk Nowitzki
DeAndre Jordan
C Brendan Haywood

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are 4-1 on their season-long road trip as they arrive in Dallas to face the Mavericks on their final stop. The trip includes two close wins over good teams (Orlando and Philadelphia) and two blowout wins over terrible teams (Washington and Charlotte) and only one blemish (a bad loss in Cleveland). Getting focused for the defending champs should be easy -- the Mavs have won nine straight over the Clippers in Dallas going back to 2006. When the Clippers went to Utah a couple weeks ago, Chris Paul asked Ralph Lawler to let him know whenever the Clippers have a record of futility against an opponent -- I think this one qualifies, so hopefully Ralph did his job. A motivated Paul will always go a long way towards a victory. The Clippers beat the Mavs in LA last month, without Paul; but they did have Chauncey Billups for that one, and he ended up making the game winning three at the buzzer. Still, no offense to Chauncey, but given a choice of having Paul or Chauncey against the Mavs, I'll take Paul every time. In the first meeting, Dallas bottled up Blake Griffin pretty well, holding him to 6 for 15 shooting, but he did have 17 rebounds and 7 assists. They'll likely need his scoring tonight, playing on the road.

The Antagonist:

The Mavericks are a little hard to figure. They don't seem like they're firing on all cylinders yet, but even so they've got a solid 17-11 record. Dirk Nowitzki, the Finals MVP, hasn't been nearly as sharp this season. After playing into June in the NBA, and then competing in the EuroBasket championship in September, he took a little lockout vacation and consequently came into the season out of shape. He took a week off in late January to work on his conditioning, and is starting to look more like his old self -- he's averaged 26 in his last four games. In addition to Nowitzki's drop off, the Mavericks may be missing the departed Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea. Lamar Odom and Vince Carter among others were brought in to take up the slack, but Odom has been terrible, and Carter is way past the Vinsanity days. Still, these are the defending champs, they have three starters back and the highest scoring bench in the NBA, Rick Carlisle is one of the top coaches, and you'd be crazy to count them out of any game or out of contention for another title.

The Subplots

  • Q&A. Be sure to check out the Q&A I did with Jonathan Tjarks of SBNation Dallas. His answers to my questions are posted here. Check SBNation Dallas for my answers to his questions.
  • The losing streak. The Clippers losing streak in Dallas stands at nine going back to 2006, but really it goes back to 2003 in games that matter. The last Clippers win in Big D came in the final regular season game of 2006. Both teams were getting ready for the playoffs and resting their regulars in that game -- Boniface N'Dong got the start, so obviously it shouldn't count. You have to go back 13 games to get to a Clippers win in Dallas that meant anything.
  • Speaking of streaks. The Clippers win over the Mavs in LA in January ended a 10 game overall losing streak against the Mavs. Wouldn't it be nice to end both the overall losing streak and the road losing streak within a month?
  • Defending Dirk. The Clippers can throw multiple defenders at Dirk Nowitzki tonight. Blake Griffin will get the initial assignment, but both Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin will no doubt take turns as well.
  • Defending Blake. If I recall correctly, the Mavericks stuck the super long Brendan Haywood on Blake in the first meeting. Griffin will need to use his quickness on Haywood. One good strategy will be to involve him in the pick and roll.
  • M-M-M-M-Mo and the JET. Jason Terry has been coming off the Mavericks' bench for five years now. He's been a major factor for them as their instant offense reserve, and won a Sixth Man Award in the process in 2009. Mo Williams is in that role for the Clippers this season, and he could do worse than to emulate Terry in the role. So far this season, Mo is doing a pretty good imitation. They score almost exactly the same number of points per minutes, though Terry plays a little more. Mo is doing his scoring much more efficiently as well. They will likely spend large portions of this game matched up against each other.
  • Carter. Vince Carter is a big shooting guard, the kind the Clippers sometimes have trouble defending. And unlike a lot of big twos in this league, Carter actually knows how to post up. Randy Foye will have to work hard to keep Vince from hurting the Clippers. However, when Kidd and Terry are in the game together (which will be a lot) the Clippers will match up better -- Kidd is big, but rarely shoots inside the three point arc these days. The Mavs may go small from time to time as well, allowing the Clippers to play their preferred three guard lineup.
  • One dimensional Kidd. Despite the two D's in his last name, there's only 1D to Jason Kidd's scoring these days. He's taken 88 shots this season -- 74 of them have been three pointers. He's one of six players in the NBA this season for whom three point attempts make up at least 80% of their shot attempts. He's only making 27% from beyond the arc, so maybe there aren't any D's to his scoring.
  • What Dallas lost. Chandler would seem to be the key loss for the Mavs. He was the anchor of their top ten rated defense, and Tjarks speaks highly of his impact on the team. Paradoxically though, it is the offense that has suffered so far this year. The defensive efficiency is actually fifth in the NBA so far, but the offensive efficiency is way down at 20th. Their defense this season has been outstanding.
  • Getting old. Seven of the nine players in Dallas' rotation are over 30, including their top four scorers. Given a chance to get younger this summer, their primary additions were Vince Carter (35) and Lamar Odom (32). Lottery picks of the 90s are well represented on the Mavs lineup, including the 2nd overall pick in 1994 (Kidd), the 5th and 9th picks from 1998 (Carter and Nowitzki) and the 4th, 9th and 10th picks from 1999 (Odom, Marion and Jason Terry). In 1994 when Jason Kidd was drafted, a five year old Blake Griffin was the first pick of his Oklahoma pre-school.
  • Odom's slow start. We all know the story of how former Clipper Lamar Odom wound up in Dallas. When the Lakers proposed trade for Chris Paul fell through, Lamar got his knickers in a twist over being shopped and asked to be traded out of LA. The Lakers obliged, and sent him to Dallas for a first round pick and a trade exception. But apparently Lamar needed a little more time to get over the whole trauma, because he's been terrible so far. Tjarks attributes it to an adjustment period, as he's playing more small forward for Dallas, but it seems like more that that to me. At any rate, he's one of just four players in the league shooting worse than 36% on the season who've nonetheless taken over 200 shots. Then again, another name on that list, Ramon Sessions, just lit the Clippers up for 24 points on 9 for 16 shooting, so you never can tell.
  • Cuban's strategy. Mark Cuban and the Mavericks are trying to thread the needle as they transition to a new era in Dallas. They got their championship last year; then they allowed players like Chandler and Barea to leave, at least in part because they did not want to take on any long term salary. Neither Odom nor Carter are fully guaranteed for next season, leaving Nowitzki, Marion and Haywood as the only big contracts on the books after this year. The could amnesty Haywood and presumably dump Marion and free up a ton of cap space, which they would use to pursue Deron Williams (a Dallas native) and Dwight Howard. It's a bold strategy, one that leaves this season's team in a bit of limbo, but it could pay off big time.
  • No Barea. J.J. Barea has absolutely destroyed the Clippers over the years. I'm so happy the Clippers don't have to deal with that nuisance.
  • Beaubois Schmeaubois. At the end of his rookie campaign two seasons ago, Roddy Beaubois came on strong and was decreed the solution at two guard for the Mavs, not to mention a star in waiting. He was one of the more talked about players in the 2010 Summer League (where frankly, he had some great games and some terrible games). Then he broke his foot before last season started and missed the first 54 games. Since he's been back, he's been anything but a star, either last year or this year. Whether it's a matter of getting back into a rhythm after the injury, or maybe the loss of some athleticism, or perhaps a case of a guy who was never really as good as he looked in a couple of games in April 2010, we'll just have to wait and see. Beaubois has gotten DNP-CDs in the Mavs last two games.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    maverick

    v. to look something up on Dictionary.com to find its pronunciation.

    We had no idea how to say Aeschylus, so we mavericked it.
  • Get the Mavericks perspective at Mavs Moneyball.

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