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NBA Playoff Preview: Dallas Mavericks Vs. Los Angeles Clippers

The NBA Playoffs are in full swing, and the anticipation is brewing for every matchup in the first round. In the Western Conference, the 4-seed Los Angeles Clippers (51-31) are going against the 5-seed Dallas Mavericks (50-32 record). For the third time in five years, these two teams are battling against each other. In what promises to be an entertaining series, both teams seek a championship but stand in each other's way.

The Clippers have been up and down this season, and it started with their blockbuster trade for All-Star James Harden. Since joining LA, he is averaging 16.6 points, 8.5 assists, and 5.1 rebounds. He is reunited with his former teammate Russell Westbrook, who has decided to come off the bench since the addition. Westbrook is averaging 11.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game, looking like one of the best off the bench players in the league. The two superstars with the Clippers are Paul George and Kawhi Leonard (Kuh-WHY), who are the best two-way players in the league. George is averaging 22.6 points, 1.5 steals, and has shooting splits of 47.1/41.3/90.7% this season, looking as solid as ever. Leonard averaged 23.7 points, 1.6 steals, 6.5 rebounds, and his shooting splits were 52.5/41.7/88.5%. While he has been incredible this season, he could start off the series in street clothes. Leonard has missed the past 8 games with right knee inflammation, and he could miss more.

As a team the Clippers are a middle of the pack defense, with a stellar offense. They rank 16th in the league in defense, with a rating of 114.6. On offense they are fourth best in the league with a rating of 117.9, but that's understandable with their superstar power. An x-factor for LA is their wing Norman Powell, who is a shooter looking to cause defenses problems. He is averaging 13.9 points, and making 2.2 three-pointers per game at a 43.5% clip. If Powell can't be stopped in the playoffs, the Clippers will go far. While LA poses a lot of threats, they will have their hands full with the Mavericks.

The Dallas Mavs are led by their dynamic duo, Luka Doncic (LOO-KUH Don-CHITCH) and Kyrie Irving. Doncic is averaging 33.9 points, 9.8 assists, and 9.2 rebounds, a near triple-double. He has had an MVP-worthy season, and has led the Mavs on the most talented team he's played on in his career. Irving is a great co-star next to Doncic, averaging 25.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. Both of these players are known to take it up a notch when the playoffs arrive, but it's the role players around them that will take them far. P.J. Washington Jr. has been a great defensive wing for the Mavs, always matching up against the opponents best player. He could be a better three-point shooter though, which is important for the team's success. Washington Jr. is averaging 12.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game this season. Daniel Gafford has given Dallas an anchor they haven't had since they won the 2011 championship. He was acquired at the trade deadline from the Washington Wizards, and he's been a perfect fit for the Mavs. Gafford averages 11.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game ever since he came to Dallas. If any team plays small, he will most likely have a career day as he will be the tallest player on the floor.

The Mavs as a team are in similar standing with the Clippers, being the 8th ranked offense and 18th ranked defense. They've played better on defense lately however, while LA has struggled, which could be a factor in this series. An x-factor for the Mavs could be the resurgence of guard Dante Exum. The Australian shooter has recently returned to the league after being a journeyman, and he's fit in perfectly as the third guard behind Doncic and Irving. He is averaging 7.8 points, 2.9 assists, and is shooting 49.1% from three-point land. They also have a rookie center who is making a return to game action in his first NBA playoffs. Dereck Lively II has impressed lately, averaging 8.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. He will be important in protecting the paint off the bench in this series for Dallas. There are many players who are in their first playoff series, and matchup vs the Clippers, but this is a rivalry in every way.

LA bested the Mavs in 2020 when they won in 7 games, then in 2021 they won in 6 games. However, both teams have changed drastically since then. Even the Mavs have changed since the two teams last met in December 2023. This series has a storied past, with a revenge factor in the minds of Doncic and other Mavs part of both previous series. In what should be another 6-7 game series, it will take the super star power that levels up to make it to the next round.

The first game of the Dallas Mavericks-Los Angeles Clippers series starts on 4/21 at 12:30 PM on ABC.


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