The Clippers and Mavericks find their seven-game series cut to three, with the road teams having won each game in taking an unconventional path to this point in Game 5. Read on for the full Game 5 preview:

Game Information

Where: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

When: 7:00 PM PT

How to Watch: TNT, Bally Sports SoCal, KEIB 1150 AM

Starting Lineups

Mavericks: Luka Dončić — Tim Hardaway Jr. — Dorian Finney-Smith — Kristaps Porziņģis — Maxi Kleber

Clippers: Reggie Jackson — Paul George — Kawhi Leonard — Marcus Morris Sr. — Nicolas Batum

Injuries

Mavericks: OUT — JJ Redick (heel); PROBABLE — Luka Dončić (neck); PROBABLE — Maxi Kleber (achilles)

Clippers: DOUBTFUL — Serge Ibaka (back)

The Big Picture

. . . is that the Clippers get a rare chance for a second first impression.

Buried just a week ago, the Clippers escaped their early grave with two increasingly convincing wins in Dallas to rip back homecourt advantage. STAPLES Center will host two games in what is now a race to take two of three. It is a race the Clippers appear better suited for.

Serge Ibaka is unlikely to return for Game 5. Never mind for now; Tyronn Lue’s switch to smaller lineups has flummoxed the Mavericks. (That and Luka’s ailing neck — more on that later.) For the remainder of this series, what’s on the floor should suffice.

And that’s because Kawhi Leonard is still on the floor. The franchise player is playing like it. Or beyond. Leonard may be the star of the first round so far, of any series. He looks particularly spry, showing open floor burst that has Russell Westbrook considering a suit for trademark dilution. Leonard is playing his best at the best time.

Shooting luck has swung back in the Clippers’ favor, too. Namely, the good guys started hitting their open shots again. Tapping Reggie Jackson for the starting lineup seems to have helped. Same for Batum, who unlocks the floor in so many ways.

These Clippers are favored to advance to the second round. Wait, when have we heard that before?

The Antagonist

. . . is suddenly searching for answers after opening the series by asking all the hard questions.

Luka Dončić is conspicuously bothered by his neck injury, which has the public scrambling back aboard the Clippers’ bandwagon. For good reason: the Clippers decided to stay home on Dallas’ many shooters and make Luka score to beat them. It’s a solid strategic choice made unshakable if Luka can’t score copiously. The Clippers have improved their defensive execution but the injury is doing more than its part. The Luka of Sunday night does not look like a slayer of giants.

Oh, and about the Clippers’ defensive improvement. Maybe it wasn’t all it was made out to be . . .

So the Mavericks appear to have been extraordinarily lucky. Their luck has shifted — and then some, if you consider ailing Luka. Rick Carlisle tried to make his own luck with liberal helpings of Boban Marjanovic and a late twin-towers lineup, but these moves seemed born more of desperation than innovation. The dirt the Clippers dug themselves out of is piling up on Dallas.

Game Thread

Thanks for reading our preview of tonight’s Game 5 contest between the Clippers and the Mavericks. The comments for this post will be the live thread. Sign up for a free account and join the conversation!

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Thomas Wood

Thomas Wood

Writing about the Clippers since 2014 and also since 2019.

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