It seems like the Clippers and the Mavericks know each other pretty well after nine meetings in the last calendar year. But we at Clips Nation still had some questions, so Kirk Henderson of Mavs Moneyball once again lent his time to share the Dallas perspective. Many thanks to Kirk and the Mavs Moneyball team for helping us prep for this series.
Clips Nation: What’s one stat you’re keeping an eye on in this series?
Kirk Henderson: Probably points in the paint. Much of the Dallas defense is constructed to play drop, but Porzingis this season backs up so much he ends up giving up shots at the rim a lot. If he looks even mildly aggressive, then that changes things, but Dallas gets crushed by shots in the restricted area relative to league average. This probably sounds silly against a team that shoots the three this well, but if Kawhi Leonard or Paul George parade into the paint, then it’s likely goodnight for the Mavericks.
CN: There are two major changes on the Mavs side from last year: Josh Richardson. Let’s start with Josh. Can he defend Kawhi or PG?
Ah, I should probably explain. His reputation as a defender is slightly overblown, but the Dallas scheme doesn’t allow him to use his quick hands much. He’s been very bad this year on defense, but so has every other perimeter Dallas defender. The trade of him for Seth Curry looks like a mistake in hindsight.
CN: What about Dwight Powell — how will he impact what the Mavericks can do on both ends of the floor?
KH: He’s such a fascinating player... it took most of the season for him to look like a NBA player following his January 20, 2020 Achilles tear. We all thought he was done, if fans are being honest. But then starting in April, he suddenly had some lift when he jumped. And that, paired with he and Luka Doncic’s incredible timing together, has worked some wonders in the late-season offense. He’s a great screener and rim-runner and just knows where to go on those sorts of plays. Defensively, he’s a saloon door. He’s got high hips and not a lot of upper body strength, so big guys like Ivica Zubac muscle him on the defensive glass. He tries hard and is fun to watch, but his best role is like 15 minutes of energy every night.
CN: his was a supercharged series offensively last year, and Clippers fans have strong memories of Seth Curry and Trey Burke lighting it up. Who can fill that spark plug role for Dallas this year?
KH: My head says Jalen Brunson. My heart says Tim Hardaway Jr.
Brunson’s been flat out unreal this year, he could be a starting guard for a less good team if he really wants to be one day. But the Clipper length bottled him up this year and that causes problems for a Dallas offense that needs his spark. Which leads me to Tim Hardaway Jr. A man labeled as the Kristaps Porzingis tax, Hardaway’s shed some of the baggage associated with his early career by embracing the role of gunslinger. He takes and makes difficult shots, and if he can get going the way he was in late April/early May, he can win a game by himself for Dallas.
CN: Prediction for the series?
KH: Clippers in six. Dallas won two games last year, but one was when the Clippers let their foot off the gas and Luka Doncic went nuts. Anything’s capable with him involved and the Mavericks played basketball this season that is all over the spectrum in terms of quality. I worry for the Dallas defense against a great offense, but that’s how I felt last year, and that series was pretty fun for a 2-7 match up.