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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season

Staples Center
March 30th, 2011, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Mo Williams
PG Jason Kidd
Eric Gordon SG Rodrigue Beaubois
Ryan Gomes
SF Shawn Marion
Blake Griffin
PF Dirk Nowitzki
Chris Kaman
C Tyson Chandler

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

With eight games left in the regular season, the Clippers have equaled their win total from last year. So an improvement is a given, right? Well, maybe not. The Clippers final eight games all come against teams either fighting for a playoff spot, or fighting for playoff position, so every opponent will be extra motivated. With the Clippers playing for pride (don't laugh), or really just trying to develop chemistry and find out what they have for next season, it really doesn't match up to the real thing. At least tonight they do have a little extra motivation - they haven't beaten the Mavs in eight games, so I'm sure they'd like to get that particular monkey off their back. They also seem to have done a good job getting up for good teams this season, and the Mavs are the best team the Clippers have not yet beaten. Unfortunately, the Clippers haven't played very well in a while - their last four wins have been against Toronto, Washington (twice) and Cleveland - the three worst teams in the Eastern Conference. You have to go back to March 9th in Boston to find a win over a team above .500. If they're going to get on track, they'll need big games from both Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin. At center, I'm assuming that Chris Kaman is once again the starter, but Vinny Del Negro went with a pretty quick hook in the Raptors game, and subbed in DeAndre Jordan early in the first quarter after a couple of Kaman turnovers. The Clippers have been getting next to nothing from the small forward position lately, and have gone with a three guard lineup featuring Gordon, Mo Williams and Randy Foye for long stretches recently. But if one of those guys has to guard Shawn Marion, it's not going to work.

The Antagonist:

The Mavericks have the best road record in the NBA at 26 wins and 10 losses; they're only 26-11 at home, so they're actually better on the road this season, the only NBA team for whom that is true. Dirk Nowizki is quietly having another MVP season, though he rarely seems to get mentioned as a possible MVP. His per game scoring is down a little at 23 (his lowest average since 03-04) but most of that is because he's playing fewer minutes. His shooting percentage on the other hand is a career high 52.3%, and ridiculous number when you consider the degree of difficulty for his shots. He's also making 41% of his threes, and his 55.4% effective field goal percentage and 62% true shooting percentage are simply absurd for a guy who scores mostly on jump shots. Beyond Dirk, the Mavericks don't have any superstars, but they do have a lot of quality depth. Tyson Chandler is having perhaps his best season at center, and he's backed up by Brendan Haywood. Rodrigue Beaubois is back from injury and joins Jason Kidd in the backcourt, backed up by Jason Terry and J.J. Barea. With Caron Butler injured, they may be a little thin at small forward, but Shawn Marion still has something left in the tank, and Peja Stojakovic had games of 16 and 17 last week. The Mavs may be overachieving a little bit to be a game out of second position in the Western Conference, and we'll see how they do come playoff time, but they're a veteran team that knows how to win close games.

The Subplots

  • Dallas looking ahead? With a huge game against the Lakers looming, the Clippers might catch a break if Dallas overlooks them while looking ahead to tomorrow night's showdown. The Mavericks are currently a game behind the Lakers for second best record in the Western Conference. Two and three are likely to meet in the conference semi-finals, so home court advantage in that series could be huge.
  • Both teams rested. The Clippers haven't played since Saturday; the Mavs last played on Sunday. In the ongoing weirdness of the Clippers 2010-2011 schedule, LA has a whole bunch of rest during the last few weeks of the season; which gives them all kinds of time to practice, just when no one is really that into practice and it doesn't really matter anyway. Three days off is pretty unusual in the typical NBA schedule - the Clippers had from Saturday to Wednesday this week, they have Saturday to Tuesday next week, and they again have Saturday to Wednesday the week after that.
  • Eight game losing streak. The Clippers have had quite the season so far as regards breaking losing streaks. This season alone, the Clippers have broken losing streaks of 9 games against the Suns, 9 games against the Cavs, 14 against the Hornets and 19 against the Spurs. They have lost their last eight against the Mavs, their longest losing streak against any opponent other than the Magic, against whom they've lost nine straight. With two meetings against the Mavs left this season, the Dallas streak will reach double digits before the season is over if they don't get one of these.
  • Stop the role players. It seems like when the Clippers play the Mavs, Dallas gets huge contributions from unlikely sources. Last season, in a game that Dirk got himself tossed out of, Jason Kidd scored 26 to lead a come from behind Mavs win. Kidd also scored 27 against the Clippers in March of 2008. In fact, Kidd has a total of three games of more than 25 points as a Mav - and two of them have come against the Clippers (both in late March, as it happens - oops). Roddy Beaubois had his coming out party against the Clippers last March, scoring 10 points in the final 15 minutes. And of course, J.J. Barea and Tyson Chandler went nuts against LAC in the last meeting. Nowitzki hasn't been the problem for the Clippers recently - it's everybody else.
  • 50 win scalps. We've discussed many times how the Clippers are the only team in the league to have beaten all six division leaders in the NBA. They've also beaten five of the six teams in the NBA currently with 50 or more wins. The only team on that list the Clippers haven't beaten this season is Dallas. A win over Dallas would fit very nicely with the other big wins the team has registered this season.
  • Best road team. Dallas has the best road record in the NBA this season. In fact, their road record is actually a little better than their home record right now.
  • Injuries don't matter to good teams. The Mavericks have the fourth best record in the NBA, despite losing Rodrique Beaubois for the first 54 games, and Caron Butler for the last 44. That's two starters they've been without this season, but it hasn't stopped them from being one of the top teams.
  • Or maybe they do.... Then again, maybe Beaubois and Butler just aren't that important and were readily replaceable by the likes of J.J. Barea and Shawn Marion. When the Mavs were missing Dirk Nowitzki for nine games, they lost seven of them. So the evidence suggests that some injuries matter more than others.
  • Speaking of injuries. The last time the Clippers played the Mavs, they were missing two starters of their, Eric Gordon and Chris Kaman. The team is at full strength at this point, which hasn't happened very much this season (or in the last five seasons, for that matter).
  • March record. They haven't played particularly well lately (their last two wins were in overtime versus the Wizards and come from behind versus the Raptors), so it's easy to forget that the Clippers are 8-5 in the month of March. A win tonight would match the season-best 9-5 mark from January, and either way the Clippers are assured of a winning month, which is nice. December, January and March have been pretty good months for the team this season - unfortunately, November and February were beyond bad.
  • Last game. In the last meeting, the Clippers led by seven midway through the third quarter, but fell behind by as many as 17 and eventually lost by 7. In that game, Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea combined to score 46 points on 14 for 17 shooting. Chandler and Barea are averaging 19 points combined between them this season, so 46 would seem to be a bit of an outlier. Brendan Haywood's hard take down of Blake Griffin (which sent Griffin to the sideline for a time with a very sore arm sustained in the fall) was part of Dallas' comeback. Dallas has played the Clippers physically in both meetings so far, so I think we can expect more of the same.
  • Gordon and Nowitzki. Not that it matters much, but I just noticed that Dirk is averaging 23.18 points per game thus far on the season, while Gordon is averaging 23.17, one one hundredth of a point less. Gordon definitely continues to fly under the radar (partly because of his injuries this season); I don't think the casual NBA fan thinks of Gordon in the same echelon as Dirk as a scorer.
  • Gomes. Ryan Gomes has a dubious streak going. He has now played nine straight games in which he has scored 3 or fewer points, making at most one field goal. He has averaged 2 points per game over those 9, and has made 7 of 29 shots (24%). You know, none of that is good. He clearly has zero confidence in his offense right now. He NEVER considers shooting unless he is wide open, and then pretty much only if he is in the corner for a three. He never looks to put the ball on the floor and make a move. Despite remaining the starter, his minutes are steadily decreasing; he played a season-low 12 Saturday versus the Raptors.
  • Zone Defense. The Clippers used a new zone, sort of a matchup, 1-2-2, to come back against the Raptors. They used it because they'd seen the Raptors struggle against zones in other games, but it worked well enough that you have to figure they'll go to it at least a couple of times in this game as well.
  • Defending Dirk. It will be interesting to see how the Clippers decide to defend Nowitzki. Will they put DeAndre Jordan's length on him? Or will they stick with the power forward matchup and defend him with Griffin? Or will the go small and stick Gomes on him? The Clippers can ill afford to have Griffin in foul trouble, so this is an assignment fraught with peril.
  • Superstar for one game. Jose Juan Barea. Barea tends to kill the Clippers. Then again, so does Rodrique Beaubois and Jason Kidd. And Peja Stojakovic for that matter. So take your pick.
  • Famous Quotation:

    I went into the Maverick Bar
    In Farmington, New Mexico.
    And drank double shots of bourbon
    backed with beer.
    My long hair was tucked up under a cap
    I’d left the earring in the car.
    Gary Snyder, I went into the Maverick Bar
  • Get the Mavericks perspective at Mavs Moneyball.