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Clippers-Mavericks preview: Final Texas Pit Stop

After stopping the freight train named Russell Westbrook, the Clippers travel into Dallas to tame the roller coaster known as the Dallas Mavericks. It will be the team's last trip into the state of Texas this season. Embrace it.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
2014/2015 NBA Regular Season

March 12, 2015, 5:30 PM
American Airlines Center (Dallas, Texas)
NBA TV, Prime Ticket, Fox Sports Southwest, KFWB 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown (2014-2015)
14-11 East 20-8
28-12 West 21-17
8-3 Division 6-6
24-9 Home 21-11
18-14 Road 20-14
18-19 .500+ 16-20
24-4 .500- 25-5
1-1 OT 5-0
6-4 L10 5-5
Probable Starters
Chris Paul PG Rajon Rondo
J.J. Redick SG Monta Ellis
Matt Barnes SF Chandler Parsons
Spencer Hawes PF Dirk Nowitzki
DeAndre Jordan C Tyson Chandler
Advanced Stats
96.80 (10th of 30) Pace 96.69 (11th of 30)
109.4 (1st of 30) ORtg 107.3 (5th of 30)
103.1 (15th of 30) DRtg 102.8 (14th of 30)
Blake Griffin (Out) Elbow
Al-Farouq Aminu (Probable) Shoulder
Jamal Crawford (Out) Calf

Clippers lead season series over Mavericks; 2-0
Clips Nation Recap
ESPN Box Score
Los Angeles
Clippers 120, Mavericks 100
Box Score
Clippers 115, Mavericks 98
Box Score

The Ropers
The Los Angeles Clippers were 33-18 when Blake Griffin was sidelined with staph infection in his right elbow. All hope appeared to be lost due to the daunting upcoming schedule and what Griffin meant to the team. Yet the team banded together in face of said schedule and has marched forward despite not having Griffin. They’re 9-5 without Griffin manning the power forward spot. It’s even more impressive since the team missed J.J. Redick in the first game Griffin was out and has been without Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford for certain other games. But here they are. They sit at 42-23 in the crowded Western Conference and are currently the 5-seed. They’re still in striking distance of the 2-seed at this point – only being three back in the loss column – and could very well get there if they get healthy.

The Steers
On the flip side of the coin, you have the Dallas Mavericks who have struggled as of late. After starting off the season 26-10, they’ve managed to go just 15-15 since then and generally look bad at times. They’re only 2-5 in their last 7 games but 5-5 over their last 10. They’re only 22-17 since the Rajon Rondo trade, as well. Against the teams still in close contention for a Western Conference playoff berth – i.e. teams from 1-10 right now – the Mavericks are a combined 8-16 against them and 6-10 since Rondo arrived. Their road doesn’t get any easier, either. They still have multiple games remaining against the Spurs, Suns, and Thunder as well as having single games against the Blazers, Grizzlies, and Rockets. There’s no telling where they’ll end up in the seeding. They currently sit in the 7-seed with a four game cushion in the loss column on the 8-seed.

For More: Visit Mavs Moneyball

Comparison of Key Metrics
The Clippers and Mavericks are quite possibly even upon looking at the Offensive and Defensive ratings for each club. They’re each in the top five offensively and each in that average range defensively. The issue is that the Clippers haven’t seen their offense fall off like the Mavericks have. Each team’s defense has been improving but both still sit in the middle-of-the-pack over the whole of the season. While the Clippers are still inside the top ten when it comes to Defensive Rebounding Rate, the Mavericks are the worst team in basketball in that department and in overall Rebound Rate. The one thing Dallas does do well, though, is force turnovers while avoiding turning the ball over themselves. They’re currently third in the league in Opponent Turnover Ratio and third in Turnover Ratio themselves. Both teams are allowing opponents to shoot 52 percent from within five feet of the basket when there’s a defender within three feet of the shot attempt. On shots from 15+ feet with a defender within three feet, the Clippers are allowing a 40 percent Effective Field Goal Percentage while the Mavericks have allowed 41 percent on similar shots. On threes with a defender within three feet, each team is allowing a 47 percent Effective Field Goal Percentage.

As has been noted throughout the course of this stretch, the Clippers are in the midst of a brutal part of the schedule but it does ease up considerably. After Dallas, they come home finally for much longer than just one game when they meet the Rockets and Hornets. Their next five games, after this one against Dallas, are against teams that can give them problems but teams they could go on a run against. Meanwhile, Dallas has to play the Thunder on Monday and then play Orlando before going on a run of games that sees them play the Grizzlies, Suns, Spurs, Spurs, Pacers, Thunder, Rockets, Warriors, and Suns in order. To put it simply, this won’t be easy for the Mavericks. Even meetings at Nuggets and at Jazz in the final five games of the season won’t be easy tasks for any team now.

X-Factor: Al-Farouq Aminu
It’s entirely possible that Al-Farouq Aminu could be Dallas’ most important player this season. It seems crazy to even suggest that considering the caliber of players they have on their team but Aminu’s ability to be the glue and energy guy off the bench is one of the bright spots for their season. Factoring in his contract – just $981,084 this season – and you start to realize that this might be true. He leads the team in Net Rating when he’s on the floor (+8.6) and is 23rd in the entire league in that category. Their defense gets worse by roughly 5.5 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the bench. Also, the team’s rebounding rate dips by 2.5 percent without him and the team sees its opponent’s turnover rate dip by two percent without him on the floor. In essence, he makes things happen. Aminu might only be averaging 5.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 0.9 blocks in 17.0 minutes per game, but his value is there nearly every minute he’s on the floor. Opponents are only shooting 41 percent when he’s within three feet of the shot and his invaluable nature to switch defensively and guard power forwards is pretty uncanny. When Dallas goes small and plays Aminu at the PF spot alongside Devin Harris, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, and Tyson Chandler, the team has an 89.2 Defensive Rating in 69 minutes. Essentially, Aminu does everything to help that team. The Clippers will have to figure out how to nullify his versatility.

DeAndre and Doppelganger
DeAndre Jordan and Tyson Chandler are the same player except that DeAndre has way more athleticism. The path Jordan has taken in his career sort of mirrors what Chandler went through. In Chandler’s sixth NBA season, he jumped from 9.0 rebounds to 12.4 and averaged 9.5 points. Both were career highs. In Jordan’s sixth season, he averaged 10.4 points and 13.6 rebounds. Both, likewise, were career highs. In Chandler’s seventh season, he averaged 11.8 points and 11.7 rebounds. Jordan has averaged 11.3 points and 14.6 rebounds thus far this season; his seventh in The Association. The main difference is that Jordan has rebounded more but both are essentially the same guy. Both have played with Chris Paul, both were high-energy, highly effective defenders by their seventh season in the NBA, and both have made a difference on the offensive end by getting putback dunks and lobs. This marks Chandler’s 14th season in the NBA and he’s putting up 10.4 points and 11.5 rebounds. The two centers could decide this game. The one who wins the battle likely owns the paint and deters shots from even taking place.

Point God's Supremacy
22.0 points, 12.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 52.1 percent shooting. That’s Chris Paul since the All-Star Break. Over that period of time, he’s effectively outplayed Tony Parker, Mike Conley, Ricky Rubio, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, and Russell Westbrook. Paul has scored 182 points and dished out 114 assists while shooting 74-for-143 (51.8 percent) from the field against them. He’s held those same point guards to 104 points and 60 assists on 30-for-93 shooting (32.3 percent). The stretch Paul is on is some of the most beautiful basketball a point guard has exhibited over the last several years. His value to the team is something that is impossible to even quantify. When on a podcast the other night, I even mentioned that he’s probably the Most Valuable Player in the league – in name only, not actual award – due to his innate ability to dominate both ends of the court on a nightly basis while going up against the best of the best at his position. At certain points, you almost have to sit back and just enjoy what you’re watching. It’s akin to witnessing Mozart composing a grand masterpiece symphony and hearing it for the first time on a nightly basis. It moves you deep down because you realize you’re experiencing unbridled greatness. It’s pure joy. Chris Paul is authentic fury in basketball form. And it is gorgeous.

Redickulous Recent Run
Speaking of guys who have played great since the All-Star Break, Paul’s backcourt bro has shown up big time. Redick is averaging 18.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists on 45.4 percent from the floor, 39.2 percent from deep, and 96.6 percent from the line since the All-Star Break. But over the last five games, he’s been the Clippers leading score – averaging 22.6 points on 48.3 percent from the field and 41.0 percent from deep. His ability to stretch the floor with just sheer movement is unparalleled on this team. Redick, like Paul, makes life easier for everyone else involved because of his knockdown shooting ability and non-stop motor. And Redick, not Jordan or Paul, has averaged the most minutes per game over the last five games. Due to the injury to Jamal Crawford, Doc Rivers has relied upon Redick even more to deliver perimeter offense for the team. One of the most impressive things about Redick is that since January 1st, he’s only missed one single free throw. He’s 50-for-51. The guy is as reliable as they come. The team will need him to keep stepping up until Jamal comes back to spell him for some minutes before the playoffs begin. The team will need a healthy, active Redick when the playoffs roll around.

Department of Defense
We all know that the Clippers have struggled defensively. At times, their rotations look incredibly late and rusty. Almost as if they’re caught in quicksand and can’t get out. However, since the All-Star Break, the team has turned over a new leaf and become somewhat of a defensive juggernaut at times. Since the return from the hiatus, the Clippers have the third best Defensive Rating in basketball at 96.9. The only teams better? The Utah Jazz (90.6) and Indiana Pacers (92.3). The thing that makes even it more impressive by their standards is that they’ve done this against a high level of competition. When it comes to Offensive Rating, the Clippers have played against the 9th, 18th, 14th, 13th, 14th, 10th, 27th, 8th, 2nd, 27th, and 12th ranked teams in order. Only three of the games – one against Sacramento (18th) and two against Minnesota (27th) – came against below-average offensive clubs. The other eight contests came against good offensive teams. Yet here the Clippers are, shutting them down for the most part. And they’ll need to do so again against the Mavericks, who presently rank 5th (107.3) in the league in Offensive Rating but have managed to rank 14th (102.9) since acquiring Rajon Rondo. So we’ll see how well the Clippers deal with Rondo after defending him quite well in the only other time they’ve played against him since he went to Dallas.

Dallas Descending Into Disquietude
Speaking of the Mavericks since Rondo’s arrival, to say they’ve struggled at times would almost be an injustice to what’s actually going on. It’s already been alluded to how the Mavericks offense has declined since Rondo’s arrival but the good side is that their defense has actually improved. They’ve gone from 105.1 in Defensive Rating before him to 101.2 since the trade. The problem is that their defensive uptick hasn’t cancelled out their offensive decline at all. They were at an ungodly 113.6 in Offensive Rating pre-Rondo. As mentioned in the previous section, they’re only 102.9 post-Rondo. There’s also the little matter of the Mavericks being just 22-17 since then and Rick Carlisle suspending Rondo for a game. Rondo’s Offensive Rating when on the court with Dallas is a mere 101.7 and his Net Rating is +1.5. Meanwhile, the team has a +1.8 Net Rating with him off the court during that time. With Dirk’s advanced age and Chandler’s chronic injury concerns, as well as the fact Chandler Parsons has missed some time, there’s no telling what Dallas’ ceiling might be. Out of all the Western Conference playoff contenders, they might be the one other teams are clamoring to play in the first round due to the slide they’re on. Recent performances against the Nets, Blazers, Warriors, Cavaliers, and even in a win against the Lakers, haven’t done much to sway that prevailing thought. Dallas can right the ship, but there’s no telling if they have the oarsmen to do it.

Tyson Chandler and Chris Paul were teammates for three years with the Hornets. Chandler was originally drafted by the Clippers back in 2001 before getting traded to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Elton Brand on draft night. Doc Rivers coached Rajon Rondo in Boston where Rondo was also a teammate of Glen Davis. Al-Farouq Aminu is a former Clipper and was in the Paul trade that sent Chris from the Hornets to the Clippers. Aminu and Paul are also former Wake Forest attendees. Austin Rivers and Aminu were teammates with the Hornets and also when the team changed over to the Pelicans. Matt Barnes and Monta Ellis were teammates for two years on the Golden State Warriors. Dahntay Jones was a member of the Mavericks for a partial time during the 2012-2013 season before being traded to Atlanta for Anthony Morrow. Jamal Crawford and Ellis, like Barnes and Ellis, were teammates on the Warriors for a brief time. In 2011-2012, Monta Ellis, Nate Robinson, Ekpe Udoh, and Richard Jefferson were all teammates on the Warriors. Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford were teammates on the Trail Blazers during that same season. Devin Harris and Dahntay Jones were teammates for a year with the Hawks, as well. Jordan Hamilton was teammates with Greg Smith and Chandler Parsons for a brief time on the Houston Rockets last year. Matt Barnes and Amar’e Stoudemire were teammates during the 2008-2009 season with the Phoenix Suns. And, in a bizarre connection, Rick Carlisle actually coached former Clippers great Danny Manning in Detroit all those years ago.

Wikipedia Entry
Maverick was a film in 1994 starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, and James Garner. It was based on the 1950’s television series of the same name. Maverick is also a superhero in the Marvel Comics universe and was in the film X-Men Origins: Wolverine under the name Agent Zero. Maverick County, Texas has a population of 54,258 as of 2010 and Eagle Pass is its largest city. It’s named after Samuel Maverick, who was a cattleman and state legislator. Perhaps, most famously, Maverick is remembered as being the callsign of Pete Mitchell, who was played by Tom Cruise in Top Gun.

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