Where: American Airlines Arena, Dallas, TX
When: 5:30 PM PT
How to Watch/Listen: NBA TV, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Patrick Beverley – Landry Shamet – Kawhi Leonard – Moe Harkless – Ivica Zubac
Mavericks: Luka Doncic — Tim Hardaway Jr. — Dorian Finney-Smith — Maxi Kleber — Dwight Powell
Clippers: Paul George Out (hamstring), Moe Harkless Probable (back)
Mavericks: Kristaps Porzingis Questionable (knee), Ryan Broekhoff Out (head)
The Big Picture
The Clippers are riding a three game win streak coming into tonight. After a few down weeks that saw ugly losses, injuries, and a lot more questions than answers, the Clippers seem to be picking up momentum. This despite the Clippers being without Paul George now for five games (including tonight) as he is hobbled by a nagging hamstring injury. Reports are indicating that he is back with the team for this Grammy road trip, and could play tomorrow against the Hawks, the second game of an away back-to-back that will most likely see Kawhi Leonard taking off due to “load management” on his knee. This would be big, as the Clippers have a golden opportunity to go streaking before a Jan 28 matchup with the Lakers and creep up on their LA rivals in the Western Conference standings.
The Clips are seeing some of their best production of the season from Kawhi, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell, all of whom are putting up season highs in points per game for the month of January and are keeping the Clippers afloat with the PG absence. With the wonky adjustments having to be made, the injury problem still being an issue, lineup changes occurring nightly, and just flat inconsistency from the team as a whole as of late, it’s a testament to how many different ways the Clippers can hit you and the star power this team possesses that LA is winning games this way. When two of your three best players are a 6’7” center and a 33 year old undersized combo guard, that’s typically not a recipe for success. However, this is Lou and Trezz we are talking about, perhaps the most dominant bench duo in the history of the NBA.
The Mavericks come into this game riding a four-game win streak that has been accomplished without the services of “star” center Kristaps Porzingis. Luka is still doing Luka things, cementing his place as a potential future multi-time MVP and one of the best players in the league. He is listed as a Small Forward, but let’s be real here: he is probably the best point guard in the league right now and will continue to be for many years. His ability to shoot over other guards, use his vision to make defenses look silly and utilize an extensive bag of tricks to score at will are what make him special. His play is the main reason why the Mavericks are anywhere near the middle of Western Conference playoff standings.
I am still not too high on the Mavs, to be honest with you. Yes, they are winning without KP, but they are a singularly focused team that relies on heavy minutes from guys like Tim Hardaway Jr, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Justin Jackson. If they aren’t shooting lights out, this team is stunted. Also, if Luka is having an “off night” (meaning 27-ish points or less) they are very beatable, mostly due to their 17th rank in defensive efficiency. The Clips did a great job of containing Luka last game and it resulted in an easy victory. The scheme should be the same. Let other people on the team shoot and try to win the ball game.
Turnovers kill the Clips: The Clippers are currently 25th in the NBA in turnovers per game. This has a lot to do with new players and injuries hobbling the team, stunting chemistry and all that. However, this is an issue that shouldn’t be plaguing a team with deep playoff experience and as many veterans as they have. Improving upon this is imperative.
The Mavs and Clips are close in many statistical categories: Clips are 3rd in total rebounds a game, Mavs are 4th. Clips are 4th in total points per game, Mavs are third. LA is 11th in FG%, Dallas is 13th. Dallas is 15th in assists per game, LA is 17th. Clips are 10th in field goals attempted, Mavs 11th. They are tied at 2nd in the league in offensive rebounds per game. Given that there are 2.5 games between them, shouldn’t be too surprising but it’s weird how close they are on key stats.
Ivica Zubac still deserves more minutes, but he does have one glaring defensive flaw: Zu is great at the rim. He is great against back-to-the-basket centers who don’t extend the floor. The second part of that sentence is the problem. He got chewed up by Derrick Favors and Nikola Vucevic last week, both mobile centers with range. Zu is fairly fleet-footed himself, although he is no track star. He has to do a better job of moving his feet and contesting shots on the move as well as shots from 15-25 feet from centers who hit those. Or else we might see him played out of some playoff games against the likes of Anthony Davis, potentially Joel Embiid, potentially Brook Lopez and more.
Follow along and comment here tonight throughout the game. Let’s go Clippers!