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Previewing the first round with Mavs Moneyball

Kirk Henderson helps us learn about the Mavericks heading into the first round of the playoffs.

LA Clippers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Clippers will take on the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the NBA playoffs, starting tomorrow in the Orlando bubble. We reached to Kirk Henderson of SB Nation’s Mavs Moneyball to become more familiar with this Dallas team heading into the series. Here’s what Kirk had to say.

How do the Mavericks plan to guard Kawhi Leonard and Paul George?

A whole lot of hope with a dash of drop coverage on pick-and-roll to start. I suspect the Mavericks will attempt to guard Kawhi Leonard with a mix of Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber. That leaves someone like Tim Hardaway Jr. to guard Paul George, and if anyone watched the bubble game, George went to work and really broke the spirit of Dallas with a variety of moves from the wing, post-ups, his whole range of moves. The Mavericks play an absurdly conservative scheme on the pick-and-roll, basically hoping for midrange and 3-point shots while protecting the rim. It doesn’t work well because Dallas doesn’t have a single player I’d consider an above average ball defender, mainly just large guys, some of whom are good at help defense. Unless the Clippers are off and Dallas is putting pressure on the Clippers on the other end, this stands to get ugly.

Who is the biggest X-factor off the bench? (Alternately, who’s a player that doesn’t get a ton of national love that Clippers fans should be aware of?)

This really depends who Rick Carlisle starts. Pair injuries with a lack of depth and he keeps trying different combinations. It could be Seth Curry, but I suspect he starts. The x-factor in this case is likely to be Trey Burke, who the Mavericks brought back at the start of the bubble. He’s been fun in Carlisle’s wide-open system. As to the second question, it’s Maxi Kleber. He’s an outstanding team defender and at 6’10, he’s been called on to defend players like Zion Williamson, LeBron James, and others. I’m really looking forward to he and Montrezl Harrell doing battle in the lane.

If Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis aren’t in a rhythm, who can the Mavs turn to for scoring?

Tim Hardaway Jr. is a willing shooter, and back during media day, he likened himself to the Michael Finley role to Luka and KP’s Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash impressions. I scoffed, but he’s been outstanding for most of the season. The Mavericks spacing allows for anyone to get shots up, it’s just a question if anyone on the team will actually hit them. Dallas really waxes and wanes there, and it’s a big part why they were so rough in the bubble (3-5).

If Dallas upsets LA, how will it happen?

LA injuries? I’ve been writing for the better part of six months that Dallas needed to avoid the Clippers at all costs, and of course they fell to the Clippers anyway. If the Mavericks can win one of the first two games with hot shooting from distance, there’s a chance of planting the seeds of doubt in a LA team that doesn’t have as much experience together as Clippers fans might like. That just seems unlikely. Dallas played a bit above its weight class for most of the year with two very good star players, but the lack of raw talent around them catches up when they play the Clippers, hence the 0-3 record.

Why is Boban the most beloved figure in the NBA?

So many big men are fake confident. As Clippers fans well know, Boban Marjanovic is the real deal, a man comfortable in his own gigantic skin and simply happy to be in the NBA. He’s very skilled as well and really feels like a man out of time in many regards. He’s terrible at defense (editor’s note: Sabreena begs to differ) despite being insanely tall, but that’s more to do with how basketball is played now. He’s easy to exploit. But fans love him because he loves being alive. That’s something that’s easy to latch on to these days.

A big thanks to Kirk for taking the time to help us learn about the Mavericks, and make sure to check out all the excellent Dallas coverage at Mavs Moneyball.