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Game #2 preview: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers

After a grind-it-out win last night, the Clippers come home to take on the Mavericks in what should be a hotly contested affair. One team will walk out of STAPLES Center with a 2-0 record.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
2015/2016 NBA Regular Season

October 29, 2015 | 7:30 PM (PDT)
STAPLES Center (Los Angeles, California)
TNT, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown (2015-2016 Regular Season)
0-0 East 0-0
1-0 West 1-0
0-0 Division 1-0
0-0 Home 0-0
1-0 Road 1-0
0-0 .500 + 0-0
1-0 - .500 1-0
0-0 OT 0-0
1-0 L10 1-0
Projected Starters
Raymond Felton PG Chris Paul
Deron Williams SG J.J. Redick
Wesley Matthews SF Lance Stephenson
Dirk Nowitzki PF Blake Griffin
Zaza Pachulia C DeAndre Jordan
Advanced Stats (2015-2016 Regular Season)
103.58 (12th of 30) Pace 105.28 (3rd of 30)
110.3 (5th of 30) ORtg 108.1 (6th of 30)
89.2 (4th of 30) DRtg 96.4 (12th of 30)
Chandler Parsons (Questionable) Knee
JaVale McGee (Questionable) Leg
Deron Williams (Probable) Knee
Clippers won 2014-15 season series against Mavericks; 2-1
Clips Nation Recap
NBA Box Score
Los Angeles
Clippers 120, Mavericks 100
Box Score
Clippers 115, Mavericks 98
Box Score
Mavericks 129, Clippers 99
Box Score

The Trusty Seafaring Ship
It’s hard to take away much from just one game, but it appears that the Los Angeles Clippers might have their starting small forward figured out and found a new way to beat teams – just bludgeon them with Blake Griffin until they can’t handle it anymore. The Clippers topped the Sacramento Kings last night, 111-104, and now head home to play a formidable foe. To get off to a truly great start, the team has to take this game seriously and never look back. One at a time should be the motto for the year. And, if last night showed anything, the team might be ready to keep hammering out good performances.

The Daunting Horde Ahead
After a wild offseason, the Dallas Mavericks entered play last night and thoroughly dismantled the Phoenix Suns by 16 points. They had eight players score in double-figures and looked as if they had been playing together for ages rather than weeks. The road to the playoffs won’t be an easy one for them, but having one of the best head coaches (Rick Carlisle) doesn’t hurt matters one bit. To keep the good mojo going, they’ll have to knock off a team that has given them some problems over the last couple years. Will Dallas keep churning along or will this be one of several slipups this season?

Opposition's Blog: Mavs Moneyball

Comparison of Key Metrics
If only game determined everything, then Dallas is one of the top five teams in basketball. Even better than Golden State Warriors if you go off of Net Rating. Yet, that’s not how basketball is truly played. One game is one game. Through one game, however, the Mavericks rank in the top five in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency while the Clippers rank 6th and 12th, respectively. It’s still early in Pace, but the Clippers played in the second fastest game in the NBA season so far so that’s why they sit where they sit. One key metric to keep note of, though, is that the Clippers suffered against Sacramento when DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin both sat. When either one was on the floor, the team’s Rebound Rate was 50 percent. When Jordan sat, it dropped to 41 percent. When Griffin sat, it dropped way down to 31.6 percent. Rebounding without those two on the floor is a must. They can’t let Dallas create more opportunities than is necessary.

While on the surface it appears like the Clippers could make some noise early on in their schedule, it’s best to remember that the team’s first 9 games are against Western Conference opposition. That’s a huge deal considering none of the 9 teams are exactly pushovers. After this game against Dallas, the team plays against Sacramento once again on Saturday then plays Phoenix on Monday before traveling to play Golden State on Wednesday. Dallas is in Los Angeles for a while as they will wait until Sunday to play the Lakers. After that, they head back home where they will play 5 out of 6 games. Oddly enough, the Mavericks play both Los Angeles teams twice before November 14th even rolls around. Weird scheduling.

Blake Griffin Is Decent
It’s not really news to us since we watch him on a nightly basis, but Blake Griffin is something of a behemoth right now. He finished with 33 points last night on 14-of-20 shooting. The shooting numbers are great, especially since he was 8-of-9 inside of 8 feet and 6-of-10 in the 16-to-24 foot range. He was on fire. Griffin also had 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and was very active defensively. There might be no better power forward in the game today than a fully unleashed Griffin, and thank goodness the Clippers have him on their side. In this game, he’ll be going up against future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and a slew of not-so-good defenders at that position. This should be another good night for Griffin.

Are These Mavericks For Real?
There’s no way of knowing if they are or not, but the Mavericks certainly looked for real last night in Phoenix. They whipped the ball around the floor, generating 24 assists and 8 secondary assists while shooting 22-of-41 (53.7 percent) on uncontested shots. Eight players tallied double-digit points and Dallas’ offensive system was just humming along. Raymond Felton and Deron Williams looked great, Dirk Nowitzki and Wesley Matthews looked fine, and the team got contributions from other players across the board. 56 of their 85 shots (66 percent) came from inside 8 feet or from three. The Clippers allowed the Kings to get 72 percent of their shots in those areas last night. For the Clippers to be successful, they have to clamp down and put Dallas into inefficient zones. Nothing easy.

Lance's Promising Start
Box score wise, it was nothing special. It was just 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal on 3-of-5 shooting from your starting small forward in 19:08. Except it was so much more than that. Stephenson made a three to start the game, hit a mid-range jumper later on, and made a basket inside the paint. Stephenson only touched the ball 25 times during his time on the floor, but he was active defensively and made Rudy Gay’s life rough. According to the data, opponents shot just 2-of-5 against Stephenson last night. He ball denied, stifled, and defended. That’s the kind of stuff you want to see out of him. The other stuff will come soon, at least you would hope, but the defense is what is required as of right now. The Clippers starting lineup flourished with him, tallying a Net Rating of +34.5 in the 15 minutes they played together. He’ll have to show up again tonight as Wesley Matthews isn’t a slouch.

Owner vs Coach
The ongoing saga between these two sides was further embellished and enhanced by Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban and Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers. They keep yapping and yammering about the couldas, shouldas, and wouldas. Both need to shut up at this point and move on. The season has started so it seems like they’re both eager to get on with bigger and better things, but both will surely have something to say tonight before the game or even during the game. And, as always, expect a little bit of Hack-a-Jordan during this game. Rick Carlisle has used it before, Mark Cuban isn’t going to not want to use it, and it just seems like something that is inevitable. At least Sacramento didn’t do it last night. Thank you so much, George Karl. You are a true gentleman and a scholar.

DeAndre's Betrayal
Some people still think that DeAndre Jordan actually signed with the Dallas Mavericks. That’s not the case. They had a verbal agreement that was basically against – wink wink – NBA policy in the CBA, and then Jordan went back to the Clippers because he realized this was the better fit for him. A lot of stuff was overblown – i.e. the Chris Paul situation – and he couldn’t be happier to be back. The team loves him, the fans love him, and the city loves him. Dallas’ loss is the Clippers’ gain and both teams have to move on with that fact. While it stinks for Dallas with how everything played out, all’s fair in love and basketball. Should Jordan have called Mark Cuban and told him he was having second thoughts? Maybe. But we can all agree on one thing; Dan Fegan sucks.

Protect Your Home
Last season, the Clippers went 30-11 on their home court. Two years ago, it was 34-7. In 2012-13, it was 32-9. So, for the last three seasons, we’re looking at a 96-27 (.780) record at STAPLES Center. There have been some weird losses during that time. This game cannot be one of them. Early season losses happen to every team across the league. Even weird early season losses happen. After all, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the New York Knicks on like the third day of the season last year. Weird stuff happens. The key early on is to try and avoid some of that weird stuff. You have to protect your home court; especially in the Western Conference against other potential playoff teams. The team has started 2-0 just twice in the Chris Paul Era. Let’s make it three times after this game.

Video Game Reference
There’s no fancy reference here. Rather, it’s kind of like a cheat code. In NBA 2k15, Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki was immortalized with a special card one day. If you were lucky enough to get him in the pack, which I believe was about the top scorers in NBA history, then you would have received one of the greatest advantages ever – the Nowitzki post fadeaway. It was simply unstoppable and just pure money. If you played MyTeam, you were living the dream with him. It was inconceivable how many times in a row you could isolate to Nowitzki in the post, fake one way, and then fadeaway the other way. Nothing but net. No idea how unstoppable it is in NBA 2k16, though, since MyTeam is now robbing people of fun by making it impossible to get good players in Domination mode. Thanks a lot, 2k!