Western Conference – No. 5 Mavericks vs. No. 4 Clippers

In the 4 vs. 5 matchup in the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers clash in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. Keep reading for a preview and prediction for this series. And make sure you check out our NBA Playoffs Betting Guide, which will serve as the hub for all of our postseason betting content!

Mavericks vs. Clippers Series Preview

There was a lengthy period in which the Clippers were the best team in basketball this season. From November 17th to February 5th, Los Angeles went 31-8 and averaged more points per 100 possessions (124.7) than any team in basketball. In that same stretch, the Clippers were a top-10 team in the league in defensive efficiency. But after the All-Star break, Los Angeles went just 15-13 and ranked 18th in the league in net rating before resting its starters in the final game of the regular season. 

 

This has simply been a lengthy lull for this Clippers squad, and Kawhi Leonard missing the final eight games of the regular season with knee swelling only adds to the uncertainty heading into this series. James Harden’s play also dropped off a cliff over the final two months of the regular season. And you can say what you want about “vibes”, but the feeling surrounding this Los Angeles team isn’t good right now — especially with the noise about Paul George bolting for the Philadelphia 76ers getting louder. Meanwhile, the exact opposite is true of Dallas. 

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After trading for P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford, the Mavericks went 21-8 with the third-highest efficiency differential in the league before a meaningless game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, April 14th. And prior to that outing, Dallas was first in the league in defensive efficiency over its previous 15 games. That gigantic leap on the defensive end suddenly has the Mavericks thinking championship, as we know a team with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving will comfortably be able to score on anyone — and will be especially productive late in games. 

The way these teams have played over the last two months almost make it impossible to learn anything from the Clippers being 2-1 against the Mavericks this season. These are just two completely different basketball teams right now. Dallas also happens to play a style of basketball that should be extremely successful in the postseason. Not only were the Mavericks second in the league in 3-point shooting frequency before the final game of the regular season, but they were also fifth in the league in halfcourt offensive efficiency and sixth in halfcourt defensive efficiency after trading for Washington and Gafford. So, Dallas can spread teams out with the 3-ball, but the team can also put defenses in a blender with Doncic running pick-and-rolls. 

Beyond the numbers, it’s a little hard to picture this version of the Clippers halting the Mavericks’ momentum. Los Angeles does have a big advantage when it comes to the sidelines, with Tyronn Lue being one of the best X’s-and-O’s coaches in the league. He’s also a magician when it comes to making game-to-game adjustments. But who on Los Angeles is staying in front of Irving over the course of seven games? And if Leonard isn’t at 100% health, will the Clippers be able to take advantage of Doncic’s lackadaisical perimeter defense? Also, will Los Angeles be connected enough defensively to make life on Doncic difficult? 

The last time Doncic faced the Clippers in the postseason was in 2020-21 when he averaged 35.7 points, 10.3 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game on 49.0% shooting from the floor and 40.8% shooting from 3. He absolutely picked them apart in a seven-game battle that was won by the Clippers. But Doncic’s supporting cast is a heck of a lot better this time around. He has never been surrounded by this much talent, and the pieces fit perfectly around him. 

Bet: Mavericks To Win Series (-110)

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