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Preview: Clippers Try to Get Back on Track Against Dreadful Mavericks

After dropping two in a row, can LA right the ship against the league’s lowliest basement-dweller?

Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Game

When: Wednesday, November 1, 2017 — 7:30 p.m. (PDT)

Where: STAPLES Center; Los Angeles, CA

Radio: AM 570 L.A. Sports/1330 AM KWKW

TV: Prime Ticket/ESPN

The Big Picture

After running out to a 4-0 start, the LA Clippers were quickly cut down to size by consecutive losses against the Pistons and Warriors, the latter in yet another blowout indistinguishable from any of the other whoopings delivered by Golden State in recent years. It is with a heavy heart that we must bid a teary farewell to the Clippers’ all-time world-beating defense (RIP, Oct. 2017—Oct. 2017), as the 141 points they gave up Monday night was enough to knock them from first to ninth in defensive rating.

But events move quickly in the NBA, you see, and teams rarely get a chance to process and wallow before another opportunity comes along to reset themselves. Hoping to avoid a three-game losing streak, the Clippers have the perfect rebound opportunity here in the 1-7 Dallas Mavericks, early season leaders in the always-riveting NBA Tankathon. For some reason this game will be nationally televised on ESPN, so let’s hope the Clippers treat this latest Western unremarkable much like the ones they dispatched in the first two games of the season.

Portrait of the 2017-18 Dallas Mavericks as a Young Team

The Antagonist

After many years, the Mavericks are finally embracing a youth movement and shedding their identity as the NBA’s premiere nursing home for sundowning veterans. Now only have three players above 30 (Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews, and J.J. Barea) in the top eight of their rotations; while this might not sound that impressive for most teams, it’s a very big deal for Dallas, who last accomplished this feat in 2007.

Like that team, this year’s Mavericks squad also started 0-4 before notching their first win. But the similarities end there, as the ‘07 incarnation roared to a 66-11 record the rest of the way before famously having their dreams crushed by a formerly basement-dwelling Warriors squad poking its head aboveground for the first time in a dozen years. Things have changed in the decade since; now the Warriors are the perennial contenders and they crush every team in the league’s dreams, not just Dallas, who appear to be settling down for an extended visit to the league’s catacombs.

Their spelunking expedition might have already reaped early returns with the selection of Dennis Smith, Jr., one of the most promising and certainly most exciting young players in this year’s draft. While he’s shown flashes, he hasn’t really started slanging his wood yet, and is coming off his worst performance of the young season. In 17 minutes against the Utah Jazz, he only scored 2 points on 1-7 shooting, with 1 assist to 4 turnovers against Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert.

Ss of now, beyond Smith, Jr. the Dallas youth movement doesn’t feature any other blue-chip prospects. Harrison Barnes is solid, perhaps now underappreciated leaguewide (although certainly not financially), but ultimately unremarkable. Nerlens Noel, who the Mavs sprung from Philadelphia with less resistance than Paris spiriting Helen away from Sparta, has seen his relationship with the team sour dramatically after embittered contract negotiations ended with him signing a one-year deal instead of a long-term contract. He seems unlikely to remain committed to this team beyond this season.

Apart from the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas has yet to offer more than token resistance in any of their matchups against playoff-quality conference opponents (which so far include Golden State, Houston, and Utah). The Clippers will be hard-pressed to find an excuse for not taking care of business early.