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Clippers-Mavs preview: The home stretch

The Clippers have six games remaining in the regular season, with the next five coming at home. But while it's nice to be home, it won't be easy to beat a Dallas team fighting for the playoff lives.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
2013/2014 NBA Regular Season

April 3rd, 2014, 7:30 PM
TNT, Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown
21-9 East 20-10
33-13 West 24-21
31-5 Home 25-14
23-17 Road 19-17
28-14 .500+ 17-24
26-8 .500- 27-7
8-2 L10 6-4
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Jose Calderon
J.J. Redick? SG Monta Ellis
Matt Barnes SF Shawn Marion
Blake Griffin PF Dirk Nowitzki
DeAndre Jordan C Samuel Dalembert
Advanced Stats
98.29 (6th of 30) Pace 96.12 (15th of 30)
109.4 (2nd of 30) ORtg 108.9 (3rd of 30)
101.7 (6th of 30) DRtg 106.0 (22nd of 30)
J.J. Redick (bulging disc) probable
Gal Mekel (knee) out
Jamal Crawford (Achilles) out

Danny Granger (hamstring) questionable

Blake Griffin (back spasms) probable

The Back Story (Clippers lead the season series 3-0):

Date Venue Final

01/03/14 Dallas Clippers 119, Mavericks 112 Recap Box
01/15/14 Los Angeles Clippers 129, Mavericks 127 Recap Box
03/27/14 Dallas Clippers 109, Mavericks 103 Recap Box

The Big Picture:

The Clippers just completed a five game road trip by winning the final four games. It could easily been a perfect 5-0 trip had Chris Paul not had the worst shooting night of his career in New Orleans, but we'll take 4-1 I suppose. One of those road wins game in Dallas, as the Clippers ran their record against the Mavs this season to 3-0. In each of the first three meetings, the Mavericks were ahead late in the game -- they were up seven with just over four minutes left in the first game, led by 17 with 4:35 left the last time they played at STAPLES Center and were ahead by four with less than two minutes remaining a week ago. Each time the Clippers came back to win. Dallas has the third most efficient offense in the league behind Miami and the Clippers, and they've put up some big numbers on LA this season, but somehow the Clippers have found a way to get big stops against the Mavs late in games, and that's really been the difference. Honestly, it would be nice if Doc's boys would just play that defense from the start and not make it quite so nerve-racking against these guys. J.J. Redick is expected to make his long-awaited return tonight after missing the last 25 games with a bulging disc (chief among a plethora of ailments). It's actually been four months and 60 games since Paul and Redick have started together in the backcourt for the Clippers. It was a thing of beauty in the brief glimpses we got back in November, and the Clippers' 54-22 season to date becomes all the more impressive in the context of their season-long makeshift backcourt.

The Antagonist:

The Mavericks find themselves in a game of musical chairs, with three teams contesting just two seats. Dallas, Memphis and Phoenix are completely deadlocked at 44-31, and none of the three has gotten any separation either up or down the standings for a couple weeks now. The Mavs are coming off a seven game home stand in which they went 4-3 -- with two of the losses coming in overtime and the third being the Clippers game they led by four with under two minutes remaining. Ouch. Now they head out on the road for four straight starting tonight with their nemesis the Clippers. The Mavericks won 16 of the last 17 meetings with the Clippers before Chris Paul arrived in L.A. but it's been a different story since, and an LAC win tonight would give them the season series sweep for the first time in 20 seasons, since the Mavs were the doormat of the league in the early 90s. Dallas has gotten surprisingly strong seasons from various reclamation projects in their backcourt like Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon and Devin Harris, and their veteran core has continued to keep them relevant led by the incredible Dirk Nowitzki. But the clock is ticking in Dallas, and if they don't make the playoffs this season it could be a very different situation in Dallas in the coming seasons.

The Subplots

  • Comparison of key metrics. The Mavericks are right behind the Clippers in offensive efficiency, but are far below average as a defensive team this season.
  • The TNT B2B. It's truly uncanny how many times this season the Clippers have been on the second night of a back-to-back when playing on TNT. At least this time it's not a road game. Having said that, a home game at the conclusion of a five game road trip, the night after playing in Phoenix, might as well be a sixth road game. The schedule has been pretty favorable for the Clippers over the course of the last month or so, but tonight is an exception.
  • Redick and Crawford. It seems to me that J.J. Redick is going to play in this game; Jamal Crawford is almost certainly not going to play. When pressed yesterday, Doc Rivers said there was a 75 percent chance Redick would play. Knowing how cautious the Clippers have been on this injury, and given that there's no incentive to raise hopes for Redick's return, I can't see Doc saying something like that unless he really expects J.J. to be ready. The Clippers would certainly like to get Redick some game action before the playoffs, to begin to re-integrate him into the rotation. Of course the rotation will still be thrown off until Crawford returns as well. Will we ever see the full force of this team? It's getting close.
  • Starting five. Believe it or not, if Redick starts tonight (and assuming the other four starters are as expected) it will be the first game this season with a starting five of Paul, Redick, Barnes, Griffin and Jordan. In November, when Redick and Paul were both healthy, Matt Barnes was hurt off and on, and Jared Dudley was the starter. It's reasonable to conclude at this point that Barnes is the starter at small forward, and has been the most effective small forward overall. In other words, tonight, in game 77, the Clippers starting five is together for the first time. Too bad sixth man Crawford is still out. Sigh.
  • Jordan against the Mavs. DeAndre Jordan presents some real issues for the Mavericks. They only like to play Samuel Dalembert about 20 minutes a game, and their other bigs are all undersized in one way or another. They'd prefer not to have Nowitzki defending Griffin, but Jordan is just too big and athletic for Dirk. The bottom line is, DeAndre has had some of his biggest games against the Mavs this season, 25 points and 18 rebounds in the first meeting and 16 points and 15 rebounds a week ago.
  • Running late. With the Clippers having played in Phoenix last night, I'm running later than usual with this preview. It was only a week ago that these teams played, and things haven't changed that much. I'm going to repeat some of those bullets and get this posted so you guys can begin to discuss the game. I may add a few bullets during the day if I think or relevant information.
  • Old guys. There are 22 active NBA players 35 years or older. Three of them play for Dallas -- two starters (Nowitzki and Shawn Marion) and their sixth man (Vince Carter)! They also start two 32 year olds (Jose Calderon and Sam Dalembert). This is not a young team.
  • Extra motivation for Collison? The Clippers' Collison spent last season in Dallas. After losing the starting job to George Hill in Indiana, the Mavs acquired him for Ian Mahinmi, which seemed like a steal at the time. He began the season as the Dallas starter -- but it wasn't long before the Mavs were desperately looking for an alternative, any alternative. They signed Derek Fisher to start in front of him, and when that didn't work out, they signed Mike James from the D-League, a 37 year old who had played a total of 166 NBA minutes since 2009. Collison has been nothing short of terrific for the Clippers. He was instrumental in the win in Dallas in early January in which Paul was hurt -- he'd love to once again play a key role in beating his former team.
  • End of an era. The Mavericks missed the post season last year after 12 straight trips to the playoffs. With Dirk nearing the end of his career and the Mavs missing out on the big names like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul with their free agency money last summer, it seemed likely that they would be out of the picture for awhile. But here they are, trying to start a new playoff streak this season. Still, the future is pretty murky, and while we know that Mark Cuban is willing to spend on a superstar to replace Dirk in Big D, it's not at all clear there's anyone out there willing to take the job.
  • Carlisle and Rivers. During the Doc-udrama this summer, as the Clippers were pursuing Doc Rivers to be their new head coach, I was somewhat surprised to learn that Rivers was one of only four active head coaches with an NBA title. Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Larry Brown have all won a title in the last decade, but those guys aren't coaching anymore, leaving Doc, Gregg Popovich, Eric Spoelstra and Dallas' Rick Carlisle as the only active NBA coaches to have coached their way to a ring. It's an exclusive club.
  • Connections. Collison was a Maverick last season. But while the Mavs have had a habit of signing former Clippers in recent years (Lamar Odom, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand) there aren't any former Clippers currently playing for the Mavs. Monta Ellis was teammates with Matt Barnes on the Warriors and with J.J. Redick in Milwaukee last season.
  • Get the Dallas perspective at Mavs Moneyball.
  • Shakespearean reference:
    Taming of the Shrew -- Act V, Scene 2 -- Katherina
    Fie, fie! unknit that threatening unkind brow,
    And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
    To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor.
    It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,
    Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,
    And in no sense is meet or amiable.
    A woman mov'd is like a fountain troubled-
    Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty;
    And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
    Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
    Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
    Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
    And for thy maintenance commits his body
    To painful labour both by sea and land,
    To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
    Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
    And craves no other tribute at thy hands
    But love, fair looks, and true obedience-
    Too little payment for so great a debt.
    Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
    Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
    And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
    And not obedient to his honest will,
    What is she but a foul contending rebel
    And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
    I am asham'd that women are so simple
    To offer war where they should kneel for peace;
    Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway,
    When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
    Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
    Unapt to toil and trouble in the world,
    But that our soft conditions and our hearts
    Should well agree with our external parts?
    Come, come, you forward and unable worms!
    My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
    My heart as great, my reason haply more,
    To bandy word for word and frown for frown;
    But now I see our lances are but straws,
    Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
    That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
    Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
    And place your hands below your husband's foot;
    In token of which duty, if he please,
    My hand is ready, may it do him ease.

    The word "maverick" is a modern American addition to the lexicon and clearly did not exist in Shakespeare's day. I turned to the thesaurus and came up with "rebel" as its Elizabethan analog.