Before the NBA hit pause in March, the most likely first-round playoff series for the Clippers was the 2-7 matchup against the Dallas Mavericks. Five months later, so much has changed, but these two teams remain on a collision course to face one another in the opening round of the postseason.
Where: HP Field House, Orlando, FL
When: 3:30 p.m. PT
How to watch: TNT, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 LA SPORTS, Fox Sports Southwest Dallas, TSN, ESPN 103.3 FM / 1270 AM (ESP)
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac
Mavericks: Luka Doncic, J.J. Barea, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Kristaps Porzingis
Clippers: Patrick Beverley (calf) — OUT, Montrezl Harrell (away from team) — OUT
Mavericks: Seth Curry (right leg soreness) — DOUBTFUL
The Clippers have done very well against the Mavericks this season, winning the first two matchups both in Dallas, though interestingly this game is also listed as a home game for the Mavericks. The team has effectively contained Luka Doncic — the head of the snake — in both matchups, though Patrick Beverley and Moe Harkless were the primary defenders in those two games. Neither player will suit up for LA today.
Presumably, the Clippers will start with one of Kawhi Leonard of Paul George on Doncic and move Reggie Jackson over to J.J. Barea. The beauty of this roster is that there is a plethora of capable wing defenders, and the Mavericks only have one primary threat to shut down, so the rest of the Clippers backcourt can easily handle Barea and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Another significant change that has taken place since the first two meetings is that Dallas’ starting center Dwight Powell is now out for the season after having torn his achilles. The Mavericks played with two bigs before, but have now moved Kristaps Porzingis to the five while they play a little smaller. The Clippers had been switching 1-4 on defense while keeping Ivica Zubac on Powell — now Zubac will either have to venture to the perimeter to defend Porzingis or LA will put a smaller player on Porzingis, like Marcus Morris Sr., and hide Zubac on Dorian Finney-Smith. That might prevent LA from switching as liberally.
The Mavericks had a historically great offense before the hiatus, one that hasn’t really missed a beat in the bubble. It’s on the other end of the floor where the Clippers should be able to easily exploit Dallas because the Mavericks have no one to really guard Leonard or George. They’ll have to turn this matchup into a shootout to have any hope of keeping up with the Clippers, and even then, if they’re somehow in the game in the fourth quarter, their poor performance in clutch situations does not bode well.
The Clippers, meanwhile, are simply focused on getting their reps before the postseason. They won’t have their starting point guard today, but having Lou Williams back should help get the bench unit in order. There remains a chance that LA could fall to no. 3, but the schedule lines up fairly nicely for the Clippers compared to the tough teams left on Denver’s docket.
Regardless, playoff positioning is not the concern. The Clippers just want to play well, and the Mavericks are an opponent that has brought out the best in them this year. They hope that is the case once more.