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Clippers-Mavericks Preview: T-Minus Ten

The Clippers have just ten games remaining, and little is settled.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture:

Ten left and a game behind. The endless race for the fourth seed is still on, and the Clippers have a schedule friendly enough to allow them the opportunity to seize it. The Clippers are also riding a three-game winning streak for the first time post-All-Star, and while some may pooh-pooh those victories due to the dubious states of the competition, those W’s all count the same. You gotta win ‘em where you can take ‘em, and that includes tonight’s game in Big D. Saturday’s big tilt against Utah looms, and the Clippers mustn’t give the Jazz the extra padding in the standings.

The Antagonist:

What a turnaround. A Mavs team that was left for the vultures has given itself a puncher’s chance at the eighth and final Western playoff seat, although at 30-40, that may have more to do with the soft state of the West’s middle class. They’re not likely to get there, not with Denver sitting 3.5 games ahead and the low-flying Trail Blazers plopped between them, but the fact that Rick Carlisle’s company has dragged itself out of the basement and into the conversation is an achievement. Harrison Barnes has been sturdy all season, and Dirk Nowitzki has shown that there’s still one-legged fallaway magic in that aging seven-foot frame. But the Mavaissance has come by the emergence of the young and largely unheralded. Yogi Ferrell has stolen hearts as a pint-sized point guard, Seth Curry has stolen his elder brother’s shooting, and Nerlens Noel was flat stolen from the Sixers in a trade that looked sour at the time and will only sting Philadelphia more with time. The Mavs narrowly edged the Clippers the last time out, their first in five tries, but that came during Blake Griffin’s first of 17 absences following his December injury. Much has changed since then. Hopefully, so will the result.

The Subplots:

  • Comparison of Key Metrics: Do you know what has 30 thumbs and doesn’t score in the paint? The Dallas Mavericks. They are DEAD LAST in nightly points in the paint, a nearly unfathomable 6.3 points per game behind 29th-place Cleveland. They are as far behind Cleveland as Cleveland is behind 8th-place — EIGHTH-PLACE — Brooklyn. The Clippers, as one might expect given that they roster DeAndre Jordan the Human Eraser, are 12th-stingiest in paint points allowed.
  • The Schedule: In my best Monster Truck voice: “Saturday, SATURDAY, SATURDAAAAAYYYYYYY.” The Clippers host the Jazz on Saturday. Lose, and it becomes very difficult to catch up. Win, get the tiebreaker, and the fourth-seed remains in play. More to come this week I am sure.
  • Not Your Average Point Guard? February Rookie of the Month and Mavs’ 6’0” starting point guard Yogi Ferrell has had a metaphorically large hand in Dallas’ semi-resurgence. Cut by Brooklyn after just 10 appearances, Ferrell has earned starts in 21 games for Rick Carlisle with 40% three-point shooting in each of his three months with the team. Ferrell has teamed with Seth Curry, whose spicy outside shot was a birthright, and early-season holdovers Wes Matthews, Harrison Barnes, and, of course, Dirk, to give Dallas a potent five-out attack.
  • Out With the Old: In case you were looking for them, Dallas cut both Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut before the March 1st deadline. The two signed with Cleveland, where Bogut promptly had his leg broken.
  • Injury Report: At the time of this writing, Seth Curry was listed as day-to-day after hurting his shoulder in Tuesday’s game against his brother and the Warriors.
  • For more on the Mavericks, check out Mavs Moneyball.