Where: American Airlines Center - Dallas, TX
When: 5:30 p.m. PST
How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket
How to Listen: AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
LA Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tobias Harris, Montrezl Harrell
Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Luka Doncic, Harrison Barnes, DeAndre Jordan
Clippers: Danilo Gallinari (Back) - Out, Lou Williams (Hamstring) - Probable, Luc Mbah a Moute (Knee) - Out
Mavericks: JJ Barea (Achilles) - Out
The Big Picture
More than halfway through the season, the Clippers have a 25-21 record and are 7th place in the loaded Western Conference. They maintained a strong start to the season despite a difficult schedule, with some notable wins against formidable opponents in both conferences. A recent 5-game skid was snapped just days ago, coming in a much-needed win against a hot San Antonio Spurs team. The loss of both Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams (who may return as soon as tonight, however) will continue to force the hand of Doc Rivers into utilizing unconventional lineups for at least a few games, as well.
In most of their recent matchups, the Clippers haven’t looked great at either end of the floor, winning just 4 out of their last 10. But there remain some positive signs for this squad. In the entire NBA, the Clippers are currently tied for 10th in Offensive Rating (with the Boston Celtics), and rank 8th in Pace, 8th in True Shooting Percentage (57.3%), 4th in 3 Point Field Goal Percentage (38.7%), and 1st in both Free Throws Attempted per game (28.5) and Free Throws Made per game (22.7). It is encouraging to see the Clippers ranking top-10 in a variety of important categories this far into the season, but it will take a string of well-rounded efforts and some extraordinary play by players used to getting far fewer minutes to make up for the offensive void left by the absence of both Gallinari and possibly Williams. Tonight is the second of four consecutive road games, and the Clippers are about to log a lot of miles in a relatively short span, with stops in Chicago and Miami looming.
The Dallas Mavericks have had an interesting season thus far, but not for positive reasons as of late. The recent loss of guard JJ Barea to a season-ending Achilles injury has significantly hurt the team’s second unit, desperately in need of offensive volume and consistency. Further complicating matters, however, was the loss of Dennis Smith Jr., whose absence, initially attributed to illness, might have been due to a growing frustration about his role on the roster. The emergence of rookie sensation Luka Doncic, averaging 20 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, appears to have created questions about how the two ball-dominant scorers/playmakers can fare in the same starting rotation. It may all be much ado about nothing, as Smith Jr. is slated to join the team ahead of tonight’s matchup. The Mavericks have won just 3 of their last 10 games, and desperately need the services of Smith Jr. if they are intent on contending with the rest of the West. Just 5 games out of 8th place, a playoff spot is certainly still within their grasp.
- Rebounding will be a key factor in tonight’s matchup, thanks, in no small part, to former Clipper, DeAndre Jordan. In the first matchup between these two teams, on December 2nd in Dallas, Jordan posted 23 rebounds in 34 minutes of play, including 6 offensive boards. That night, the Clippers were out-rebounded 67-48 and lost by just 4 points. During the most recent matchup between the two teams, on December 20th in Los Angeles, Jordan posted 22 rebounds in 33 minutes of play; while he put up equally staggering numbers in their second matchup, the Clippers won by 4, getting out-rebounded 54-45 as a team. While many factors were at play, cutting the Mavs’ rebounding advantage by more than half was a crucial component in snagging the win. If the Clippers can remain aggressive on the glass and prevent second-chance opportunities by the Mavs, they will create a significant advantage for themselves.
- Tobias Harris (27 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 0 turnovers) and Patrick Beverley (18 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 1 block) had stellar performances against the Spurs on Sunday evening, but it’s unreasonable to expect that kind of perfection going forward. They will undoubtedly find ways to contribute positively even if shots aren’t falling, but they, along with Avery Bradley, each tallied 40-plus minutes in the win. Doc will need to be able to trust his second unit when guys like Harris, Beverley, and Montrezl Harrell are on the bench.
- Tonight is the second night of a back-to-back for the Mavs, coming off a double-digit loss against the Bucks in Milwaukee. Fatigue will likely be a factor in tonight’s game, so it will be crucial for the Clippers to dictate the pace as much as possible. If they can play fast and play downhill, the Clippers will put themselves in great position to come away with a win and build some momentum without two of their best offensive weapons.
Be sure to check out the Mavericks perspective over at Mavs Moneyball.