The first time the Clippers played the Mavs this year, it was the game after second best player Josh Howard had twisted his ankle. This time, it's Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk was hurt in Wednesday's game in Seattle and is listed as questionable for the Clippers game. So while nothing else is going well for LA, at least their Dallas-voodoo-dolls are working.
The Clippers actually played their best half of the season in that Dallas game, and Dirk was key. Or rather Cat Mobley's defense against Dirk was key. Cat was the undisputed star of that first game, scoring a season-high 28 points and blanketing Dirk in the second half.
Still, the Clippers would rather play Dallas without the Diggler, even if they might think they have a plan for defending him.
But let's not kid ourselves. The Clippers are 1-8 on the road, and the way they are playing now, they'll be lucky to get a win in Big D, even without Dallas' MVP on the court. They'll still have to contend with super quick guards Jason Terry and Devin Harris, and the multi-faceted Howard has been playing very well, scoring 20 or more in 7 of their last 12 games.
Most importantly, the Clippers will have to find a sense of purpose in their own game. For basically the entire season, and especially during their current 5 game losing streak, the team has been lacking in one aspect of the game or another (and sometimes all at once). When they execute on offense, they fall asleep on defense. When they play defense for a quarter, they can't make shots. Perhaps they can remember how they played against Dallas in the second half in November and come up with a similar effort in this game.
Overall, the Mavericks are a blistering 19-3 since their 0-4 start. Of course, all those games were with Nowitzki. Not many teams are as dependent on a single player as the Mavs are on Dirk. But the rest of these guys are not stiffs. The Clippers need to show up if they want this win.