The Clippers will hope to get back in the win column against the Mavericks after two awful losses in New York.
Where: American Airlines Arena, Dallas, Texas
When: 5:30 PM PT
How to Watch: Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Russell Westbrook – James Harden – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Ivica Zubac
Mavericks: Kyrie Irving – Luka Doncic – Grant Williams – Derrick Jones Jr – Dereck Lively II
Clippers: Mason Plumlee Out (Knee), Brandon Boston Jr. Out (Quad)
Mavericks: Maxi Kleber Doubtful (Toe), Dereck Lively II Questionable (Illness)
The Big Picture
The Clippers are 3-4 on the season and 0-2 in the James Harden era. Oddly, considering who they brought in and who they sent out, it’s been the offense that has struggled, not the defense. It’s understandable that things will take time – Harden is a massive piece who the Clippers need to fit in, and he’s not the easiest guy to play with either. That being said, the loss to the Nets in particular also featured seemingly lackadaisical effort and unacceptable sloppiness that had little to do with Harden or his integration. The Clippers have extremely high-end star talent, but they still need to play hard and do the little things to win games consistently, especially on the road against decent or better competition.
The Mavs are a team of extremes. They boast the 3rd best offense in the NBA powered nearly entirely by the brilliance of Luka Doncic. They are, however, the 23rd ranked defense in the league, even though they tried to load up on defense-first players in the offseason with Grant Williams, Derrick Jones, and even Dante Exum. The Mavs’ offense has been further unlocked by rookie Lively, as despite some rawness his size and athleticism makes him a terrific pick and roll partner with Doncic. The Mavs are also making a real effort to play faster despite Luka’s natural instincts to keep things slow, as they rank 10th in pace. At 6-2, they’re one of the better teams in the NBA on paper, though a soft schedule has boosted their record a bit. Still, Luka is unbelievable and their supporting cast makes sense around him.
The Turnover Battle: The Mavericks, largely because the ball is nearly always in Luka’s hands, take exceptional care of the basketball. They have a turnover percentage of just 13.3%, which ranks fourth-lowest in the NBA. The Clippers, by contrast, have a turnover percentage of 16.4%, which is fourth-highest. It’s hard to win games when you give the team numerous extra possessions, and that’s what the Clippers have done this year between their turnovers and poor rebounding. If the Clippers turn the ball over four or five more times than the Mavericks, it won’t matter if they outplay them in other aspects of the game. Hopefully they turn the ball over less in this one than the past couple games.
Going Small: The Clippers still haven’t signed a reserve veteran center to replace the injured Mason Plumlee, so expect a lot more PJ Tucker at center in this one. Against the Mavs, much as against the Nets, that might not be such a bad play, as the Mavs don’t attack the offensive glass very hard and rely heavily on perimeter players. While I don’t think Tucker can do much against Luka, he’s also not Zubac, who Luka seems to enjoy torturing. This could be a game where Zu doesn’t play much, especially if he’s not punishing the Mavs on the other end of the court.
Bench Rotations: Bones Hyland was benched in the second half against the Nets as Ty Lue went with an 8-man rotation. That does not seem feasible in the regular season, especially for a team as old and injury-prone as the Clippers. I suspect Bones still gets minutes, but it’s possible Ty Lue opts for a bigger player to pair with James Harden and Norm Powell, such as Amir Coffey or Kobe Brown. I like Bones a lot, but playing him with Norm and Harden is just asking for an awful defense (though the offense could be very potent if they mesh). I’m very curious how the Clippers try to balance offense and defense with the bench units going forward.