The Clippers’ kick off their 2024 playoff run with a home game against the Dallas Mavericks and the availability of superstar Kawhi Leonard an uncertainty.

Game Information

Where: Arena, Los Angeles, CA

When: 12:30 PM PT

How to Watch: ABC

Tickets: For great deals on Clippers tickets, check out Barry’s Tickets!

Projected Starting Lineups

Clippers: James Harden – Terance Mann – Paul George – PJ Tucker – Ivica Zubac

Mavericks: Kyrie Irving – Luka Doncic – Derrick Jones Jr. – PJ Washington – Dereck Lively II

Injury Report

Clippers: Kawhi Leonard questionable (knee)

Mavericks: Dereck Lively II day to day (knee), Tim Hardaway Jr. day to day (illness)

The Big Picture

The number one question for the LA Clippers coming into their first round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks is the status of Kawhi Leonard. Conflicting reports have come out this week, from there being optimism that he will play in Game 1 to that he still needs more time to get his knee swelling down.

Clippers fans have been hanging on by the edge of a thread this week in hopes of good news regarding the team’s superstar. As of Saturday morning, Leonard’s status was still up in the air following a practice media availability as per Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints.

The general consensus seems to be that the Clippers are good enough to take a couple games from the Mavericks without Leonard, but not quite good enough to win the series if he is unable to play or is not close to 100%.

But this is reason why the team went out and got James Harden. It was more for regular season rest purposes than envisioning a playoff run without Leonard. But this is his opportunity to step it up and perform like the star he is, especially as he seeks a new contract in the offseason.

This is also going to be a big series for Russell Westbrook. He’s slotted to play the Nicolas Batum role of defensive disruptor. He’s had individual success against Luka Doncic in the regular season on both ends of the court. The Clippers know Doncic can be hunted defensively, and expect them to take advantage of that each time they can.

The bench overall has to show up as well. The Mavericks strengthened their depth at the trade deadline. The Clippers need to match that in Game 1.

And finally, there’s the issue of a matinee Sunday game. It’s no secret that’s been an Achilles heel of the Clippers in the 213 era. But it’s the playoffs. Any team that’s serious about contending for a title can’t be bothered with start times. That’s a prime-time slot on national TV. It’s win or go home time.

The Antagonist

The Dallas Mavericks come to town revamped and ready to begin the playoffs. The Clippers past two playoff series against them has no bearing on this season, as their roster is completely different.

The Mavericks got Luka Doncic some real help in the scoring department and in terms of ball-handling and playmaking with one of the best at his position in Kyrie Irving. He isn’t stuck with an inconsistent Kristaps Porzingis as his only other scoring threat.

They added impactful depth in PJ Washington and Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline without having to give anything of real value (in current players at least). The Mavericks have made sure that Doncic has weapons around him when teams send two on ball or swarm him. He’s got more space to operate one-on-one, when he excels.

The Mavs have also been a solid defensive team. During the final month of the regular season, they were among the top teams in the league in defensive efficiency. A big part of the Mavs defensive attack comes from another player who wasn’t on those past rosters in Derrick Jones Jr. The athletic wing can guard multiple positions and is an All-Defensive caliber player.

Their interior defense is improved due to the addition of Daniel Gafford and rookie Dereck Lively II. Lively has also been dealing with a knee issue recently, but all signs point to him being available for Game 1.

This is not at all the same Mavs team that the Clippers have beaten in recent postseasons. Even when the Clippers dug themselves into a hole in 2021, there was never a real feeling like the Mavs were a better team. Even with a healthy Kawhi Leonard, this Mavs team is capable of beating the Clippers. There is a lot riding on Game 1, whether Leonard plays or not, and it’s up to the Clippers to rise to the occasion.

Disclaimer: 213Hoops may receive compensation for some links to products and services in this post.

David Yapkowitz

David Yapkowitz

David is in his sixth season as credentialed media at Los Angeles Clippers games and second season covering the team for 213 Hoops. He also covers the game at the college and high school levels. When his professional basketball dreams did not materialize, he turned to the next best thing, writing about it.

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