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Clippings: Revisiting the regular-season matchups with Dallas

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The Mavericks went 2-1 against the Clippers in the 2020-21 season.

LA Clippers v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Due to the majesty of the NBA play-in — seriously, it made the end of the regular season so much more exciting than usual — the Clippers get a full week to prepare for the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs.

It’s a good thing, because head coach Ty Lue basically said that LA’s three matchups against Dallas during the regular season were useless in terms of predicting what the playoffs could look like.

“Not at all, the playoffs are a different season,” Lue said when asked about his takeaways from the first three Mavericks games. “Seen a lot of crazy things throughout the course of the regular season and when the playoffs come, it’s a whole different season. Mentally changes, a lot of things change. We can’t read into anything that happened in the regular season as it’s a whole totally different season.”

It’s probably fair for Lue to ignore the first time these two teams met this year. Kawhi Leonard was unavailable after Serge Ibaka elbowed him in the head, and the Clippers proceeded to fall behind by 50 points in the first half. That’s never going to happen again. The Clippers shot 34 percent from the field and made four total 3-pointers despite being the second-greatest shooting team of all time this year. It was clearly an anomaly.

That being said, there’s probably something to be learned from the two-game set the teams played in Dallas in March. The Clippers made the switch to their current starting lineup at that point, inserting Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac as the two bigs in place of Nic Batum and Serge Ibaka. Ibaka and Patrick Beverley weren’t available, and the Rajon Rondo trade hand’t gone through, but there were 15-20 minutes in each game when the Clippers had four starters and Batum or Reggie Jackson on the floor — real lineups that will see the floor during the postseason.

What became clear in those games was that the Clippers have the defensive fortitude to shut down the Mavericks offense, something that wasn’t always the case in the playoffs a year ago. LA limited Dallas to offensive ratings of 107.7 and 110.5, well below the team’s season average of 116.2, per Cleaning the Glass. The Clippers kept the Mavericks off the foul line and off the offensive glass while also forcing a high rate of turnovers. The Mavericks made tough jumpers, but the Clippers limited the volume and quality of their shots. Those games resulted in a split because LA went cold in the second contest, but being able to stop Dallas should be the more important takeaway.

What did you learn when the Clippers and the Mavericks played during the regular season?

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