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Critical Game 5: What to watch for as Mavs try to take series lead against Clippers

Critical Game 5: What to watch for as Mavs try to take series lead against Clippers

What a roller coaster this series has been. Mavs fans have gotten to experience it all: Porzingis getting ejected due to weak technical fouls in a close Game 1 loss, a dominate Game 2 from the entire team, Luka’s ankle looking like Gumby in Game 3, Trey Burke becoming 2011 JJ Barea, Maxi Kleber forgetting how to offense, and the gut-punch of Dončić playing in Game 4 but KP being pulled from the lineup last minute due to knee soreness. As if that wasn’t enough for Mavs fans hearts, Dončić proceeded to put up a 43 point, 17 rebound, 13 assist triple-double, capped by hitting the game-winning 30-foot step back three pointer at the buzzer to tie the series at 2-2.

Game 5 Importance

Game 5 could swing the outcome of the series in our favor. The Game 5 winner of a tied NBA playoff series has gone on to win the series roughly 90% of the time in NBA history. Does that mean if the Mavs lose Game 5 that it’s over? Of course not, we have Luka Dončić. But it will make it that much harder on these young Mavs to make the impossible, possible.

Clippers Defensive Scheme

Defenses obviously cannot stop Dončić, they can only slow him down. That is exactly what the Clippers did in the final three minutes of regulation in Game 4. Dončić scored eight timely points and created many good looks for teammates throughout the fourth quarter. In the final three minutes, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers called upon Kawhi Leonard to stop Dončić. Leonard did a good job, as Dončić did not score for the remainder of the game. The Mavs guard also had a tough time getting around Leonard in order to create opportunities for his teammates. This strategy of Leonard guarding Dončić and forcing the Mavs role players to do the heavy lifting helped the Clippers come back from a 116-109 deficit to send the game to OT.

Mavs fans should expect the Clippers to throw Leonard at Dončić more often in Game 5 and for the rest of the series. Leonard was initially set up to guard Dončić on the final in bounds play of Game 4. The only reason he was not is due to Coach Carlisle’s play design that sent Maxi to screen for Dončić, which caused Reggie Jackson to switch onto him. This sent Leonard away from the play and Jackson had to guard Dončić. The Clippers might have been switching anyway, but freeing Dončić of Leonard allowed Luka to work his magic.

Expect Coach Carlisle to game plan for this strategy. Look for play designs such as the one above to get Leonard off of Dončić so he can punish less capable defenders. If the Clippers are going to switch it will also create mismatch opportunities for KP and some of the Mavs more quick and savy guards like Burke and Curry.

Bubble Burke

The Mavs bench depth took a major blow when Dwight Powell and Jalen Brunson were injured for the season. Then Willie Cauley-Stein and Courtney Lee became unavailable for bubble play. Suddenly the Mavs bench depth, an area the Mavs could hang their hat on all season, had become worrisome.

Enter Trey Burke.

Dallas welcomed Trey Burke back for his second stint after the now-swept 76ers waived him. Burke wasn’t exactly the addition Mavs fans had hoped for, a wing defender with size and shooting touch seemed like a more logical move, but Burke is paying dividends. Since entering the bubble the Michigan guard has put up 11 points, 3 assists, and 1 steal while shooting 38% from three in 23 minutes per game. His play has reminded Mavs fans of JJ Barea’s contribution’s to the 2011 championship team.

Will We See KP?

Mavs fans were left pondering what was bothering KP after the last minute Game 4 scratch. Porzingis missed the game due to right knee soreness. Porzingis missed 10 games this season for the exact same reason on the exact same knee. The only issue is that soreness is a symptom of a problem, not the cause of it. Mavs fans won’t know what is causing the issue for KP until the summer, if we even know at all.

The Mavs medical staff is top-notch and the organization has a forward thinking view of the future. Why didn’t KP play? Frankly, because the Mavs time isn’t supposed to be now. So why compromise the future health of your 150 million dollar man now when you think your organization will be ready to compete for championships in two or three years? It makes sense. But it also makes Mavs fans uneasy, as it should. But after KP had to watch Luka carry this team on a bum ankle to tie the series, we can only hope to see KP in Game 5.

Parting Notes

When this season started we were just hoping for progress. At best, a successful season meant a playoff birth and first round exit. At worst, the goal was to see KP get back to form and Luka in better shape to help improve his game. These Dallas Mavericks weren’t supposed to be in this position. These Dallas Mavericks are supposedly two to three years away from really competing. Instead, behind Luka Dončić, Coach Rick Carlisle, and the rest of this feisty group, they are banging at the door and threatening to kick it in.

Staff writer covering the Dallas Mavericks | I was in Miami when the Mavs won in 2011 and I was in the building to see Dirk's 30K point. I follow the Mavs and NBA religiously, with the Cowboys and Rangers sprinkled in. Outside of sports I like The Office, cooking, and good beer.

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