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Clippers-Mavericks Preview: Four to Get Four

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With four games remaining, the fourth seed is still within reach.

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

The Big Picture:

Jazz, Jazz, Jazz. Almost. With the Clippers almost certainly paired with Utah for the first round, attention has rightfully turned toward Salt Lake City. But there are four games remaining, and four wins would allow the Clippers to capitalize if the Jazz slip up once in their own final four contests. The Clippers offense is humming, and it would be nice if the defense could provide the harmony. But it was the offense that faltered in Dallas in March, handing the Mavs 17 freebies. Clean that up, take advantage of this matchup at home, and victory is likely.

The Antagonist:

Dallas has won just once since tipping the Clippers two weeks ago. That shouldn’t be a surprise, as they’re a team with little to play for beyond forming or furthering an identity upon which to build this summer. Plus, Seth Curry and Dirk Nowitzki are likely out, removing some of their punch. But, there’s still Rick Carlisle, there’s also Nerlens Noel and Harrison Barnes, there are some dynamic guards, and there’s always that whole DeAndre Jordan thing that colors this matchup. Even coming in from a game in Sacramento last night, expect the Mavs to put up a fight. They never seem to give anything less.

The Subplots:

  • Comparison of Key Metrics: +4.5. That’s Nerlens Noel’s net rating in 17 games with Dallas, more than double any Mav that’s averaged at least 20 minutes as a Mav. With Dirk likely out tonight, Noel will get a lot more than his 23 minute average. What a pickup.
  • The Schedule: Three more, and none are gimmes, not even against the suddenly sorta frisky Kings. But the Spurs and Rockets come up first.
  • If You’re Not Getting Better: The Clippers finished last season third in the NBA in both assist-to-turnover ratio (1.76) and turnover rate (13.2%). This season, despite missing playmakers Chris Paul and Blake Griffin for sizable chunks, they’ve only been marginally worse (1.71 and 13.3%). But they’ve dropped to ninth and sixth in each category. The league, as a whole, is passing that much better.
  • Scoreboard Watching: The Jazz splashed the Blazers by 19 last night. Boo. Their lead remains one game with four to go.
  • For more on the Mavs, head over to Mavs Moneyball.