For the first time in history, Dallas mavericks and the Los Angeles Clippers will star in a playoff tie. A confrontation that has not taken place once in the 40 years that both franchises have shared the fields of the league. And that has been possible after the Californians have concluded the regular season in second position and the Texas in seventh.
Led by Kawhi leonard and Paul George, Doc Rivers’ men will measure their strength against phenomenon Luka Doncic in one of the most interesting series for the title in this first round of the Western Conference.
For Los Angeles Clippers it is an expected occasion. Since they moved to the Californian city in 1984 they have not been able to overcome the Conference Semifinals, where they have been eliminated up to four times. Now they’ve put together a team built specifically for the playoffs. It features a two-time Finals MVP as Kawhi Leonard, a two-way star as Paul George, luxury squires like Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell and a deep and extensive wardrobe led by a head coach who already knows what it’s like to win a championship, Doc Rivers.
The Angelenos have beaten Dallas in their three meetings this season by an average of eleven points, including a 126-111 victory in the Orlando bubble. The pair formed by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George has been especially lethal before the of Rick carlisle, with a net differential on the court of +29.5, the sixth best record in the entire league among those couples that have played at least 50 minutes against the Texas team.
Two will be the challenges that Doc Rivers will have to face to guarantee their qualification for the next round. First, close a rotation of guarantees, adapt the existing pieces to the rival and distribute the minutes effectively without damaging the performance or the chemistry of the dressing room. All this while maintaining a fluid offensive, the main Achilles heel during specific sections of the course. The Clippers will need all of their complementary parts to avoid scares. However, not everything will go as desired. Patrick Beverley is struggling with a calf muscle injury, Landry Shamet is still limping from a sprained ankle and Montrezl harrell It is not yet in competitive dynamics after recently entering the bubble. Pieces like Marcus Morris, JaMychal Green or Reggie Jackson will be forced to step forward to complement the main cast.
And secondly, minimize the production of Luka doncic. This point has already shown signs of being able to be fulfilled. Despite averaging 29 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists per game in head-to-head matches with the Los Angeles Clippers, his shooting effectiveness dropped to 42% and he committed up to five turnovers per evening. Limiting their contribution will be the Los Angeles’ main defensive goal. « Luka is a pure player, a very complete player, » declared Paul George. “He can shoot, pass, rebound. He does everything at a high level. He’s a guy you have to have a definite plan for. «
The former Real Madrid player has exhibited a spectacular level throughout the bubble, as if the long hiatus due to the coronavirus crisis had not gone with him. Doncic is among Orlando’s top three in scoring (32 points), rebounds (11) and assists (11). Even two defensive specialists like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George know that a challenging series awaits them. Also, Kristaps Porzingis He has performed at a great level, increasing his average scoring by more than ten points compared to the rest of the regular season: 30.5 points and 9.5 rebounds with 47.6% from field goals. That is, a tandem capable of securing more than 60 points per evening.
The performance of their stellar duo has served to throw an unprecedented record: the Mavericks attack is ranked as the most efficient in NBA history based on the number of points per 100 positions. The rebirth of players like Seth curry, Tim Hardaway Jr. or Maxi Kléber has been vital and the experiments of the always risky Rick Carlisle have done the rest, adapting the game to the possibilities of the squad.
Experience will be another fundamental value in the future of the tie. A fight that Los Angeles Clippers take by a landslide. Kawhi Leonard knows very well what it is to carry the weight of the team and conquer the ring, Paul George was the visible head of those Indiana Pacers to whom only Lebron James deprived of reaching a Finals and the rest of the pieces have already had their pluses and minuses in the playoffs. For Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, however, it will mean their first post-season appearance. And the usual defensive errors of the Texans will be even more punished. Whatever happens, in Dallas they have reason to dream. « We always have a chance, » Luka Doncic said of the tie. « They are a great team but we will always have chances to win. »