NBA Playoffs: Mavericks vs Clippers Preview

NBA Playoffs: Mavericks vs Clippers Preview

by May 18, 2021 1 comment

For the second consecutive season, the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers will meet in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Clippers won the 2020 playoff series 4-2 against a shorthanded Mavericks team.  That series was thrilling and getting it once again is something all basketball fans should be thankful for in this year’s NBA playoffs.

The Mavericks won the season series 2-1, including a 51 point beatdown all the way back on December 27. Kawhi Leonard and Kristaps Porzingis both missed that game for their respective teams.

Will this year have the same results as last year? Or can the Mavericks pull off the upset and advance to the second round? Time will tell, but we know we are in for another great first-round matchup between these two teams.

Series Odds

SERIES –  MAVERICKS: +360
SERIES – CLIPPERS: -510

The Clippers enter the series as heavy favorites at -510. This number is pretty significant for a Fourth seed vs Fifth seed matchup. The Clippers are widely considered more serious title contenders than the Mavericks, but in a head-to-head, seven-game series the difference is not nearly what the odds suggest.

An argument can be made for the Mavericks having value at +360, but it isn’t something to feel great about. A number of things would need to bounce their way in order to beat the Clippers, with health atop the list.

If betting on this series, stay away from the series line. There’s much more value in a game-to-game approach in a star-studded series like this one. Momentum will swing back and forth throughout this series, so picking the right spots can be profitable.

Key Matchups

Kawhi Leonard vs Luka Doncic

In the NBA, everything starts with the superstars. This series features two of the best basketball players in the world, which gives us the first key matchup in this series. While they won’t be matched up at all times and will both be counting on their teammates, Leonard and Doncic are the leaders of these two teams.

As leaders, it is their responsibility to get the most out of their team in order to advance in pursuit of a championship. While Leonard might want to guard Luka at all times, the Clippers will wisely use their plethora of great on-ball defenders to give Doncic different looks.

Which player can elevate their team more? That will be one of the keys in each and every game throughout this series.

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Kristaps Porzingis vs Clippers Bigs

If the Mavericks want different results from last year, Porzingis will need to have a big series. He played in just three of the six games in last year’s playoff series between these teams, inevitably leaving Doncic without the second option he needed.

Due to the perimeter defenders mentioned earlier on the Clippers roster, Porzingis needs to be a consistent scorer to help take pressure off his all-star teammate. He also needs to patrol the paint defensively as a rim protector while staying out of foul trouble.

The Clippers have a couple of different options to throw at Porzingis defensively that offer different looks. Ivica Zubac is a strong, well-rounded big man that has a significant strength advantage over Porzingis. Serge Ibaka is a well-known defensive ace and can stay with Porzingis away from the rim better than Zubac.

In two regular-season games against the Clippers, Porzingis averaged 16.5 points and 10 rebounds. In the first round of the playoffs, he will need to be a much more aggressive offensive threat.

Mavericks X-Factor: Josh Richardson

Richardson has been disappointing in his first season with the Mavericks but can change that all with a big playoff performance against the Clippers. It would be the perfect time for him to take his game to another level, as the Mavs need him to contribute on both ends of the floor to win this series.

Richardson tied his career-low this year by connecting on 33 percent of his three-pointers, playing a big role in his scoring dropping to 12.1 points per game. In addition to hitting open shots in the playoffs, he is going to be vital on the defensive end.

The Mavericks aren’t going to grind out wins and take over games defensively. In a way, that makes it more important they get consistent and good defense from guys like Richardson. Will he fully stop Leonard or Paul George? Absolutely not. Getting stops on possessions is key, though, and he can help them do that.

Clippers X-Factor: Rajon Rondo

You’ve heard it a thousand times, ‘Playoff Rondo’. It’s an overhyped term at this point in his career, but at the same time, ‘every game Rondo’ is an under-appreciated player in the league today.

He was a great addition to their roster, though giving up Lou Williams for him took away a big part of their team as well. Still, a point guard with Rondo’s approach will help this team in the playoffs more than Williams would have. Since joining the Clippers, Rondo is leading the team in assists per game with 5.8. That is in just 20.4 minutes per contest.

Expect Rondo to be crucial in the Clippers staying in games when the Mavericks are firing on all cylinders offensively. He is the team’s best playmaker and only true point guard. That makes his contributions needed for the Clippers to avoid another disappointing playoff run.

Prediction: Clippers 4, Mavericks 3

Last year these teams went six games, even though the Mavericks were shorthanded. This one goes one more game but ultimately reaches the same result, a Clippers victory.

While the Clippers haven’t sold me as being capable of maximizing their talent yet, they still are one of the best teams in the league. Their defensive abilities will be enough to overcome a couple of big Mavericks scoring nights. The depth they added in talented but aging veterans like DeMarcus Cousins and Rondo outweighs the additions and improvements the Mavericks have made.

It will be a back and forth battle, but the Clippers take it in seven games.

Where will Kawhi and Luka land on the All-NBA teams? Check out Darius Walker’s 2020-21 All-NBA Predictions.

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Main Image Credit: From Google Images

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