It’s hard to believe it has been over four years since the last time the Mavericks played a playoff game. April 25th, 2016. Dallas lost game five of their first round series to the Oklahoma City Thunder 118-104 to officially close out their season. The one player remaining from that team? J.J. Barea. He’s certainly excited to be back in the postseason.
“It feels great. The Mavericks are back in the playoffs,” the 14-year veteran said with a smile after the regular season finale against Phoenix on Thursday.
Now the Mavs have had a full weekend to prepare for their first round matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers, a team plenty are picking to be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy when the postseason concludes. Dallas lost all three of their games against the Clippers this season, including a 126-111 loss just 10 days ago inside the bubble. One thing that was apparent each and every time these two teams faced off this season: the Mavericks historically great offense wasn’t going to have as much fun as usual thanks to the defensive toughness of the Clippers.
“They’re obviously a big physical team that’s going to be into us early,” Kristaps Porzingis said after practice Saturday. “We gotta be calm early and play our basketball and not be the ones reacting to their actions.”
With two of the top ten leaders in technical fouls on their team (Marcus Morris with 13 this season and Patrick Beverley with 11), the experienced and savvy veteran Clippers know that things can get chippy over the course of a playoff series. Beverley on his own has an impressive career montage of run-ins with prominent players across the league, one would have to think he’ll be aiming to absolutely agitate everyone on the Mavericks throughout a series.
I don’t think many exactly think of the Mavericks as the “toughest” team in the league, but there have been some moments throughout the highly-competitive play in the bubble that have shown some glimpses of the team’s willingness to not back down.
Finney-Smith and Ayton exchange words after Finney-Smith seems to shove Ayton from behind during an entry pass. pic.twitter.com/CTKHrip5iA
— Cody Houdek (@codyhoudek) August 3, 2020
Melo and Maxi Kleber been jawing all game 👀 pic.twitter.com/7dEv3EJxoK
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 12, 2020
Things like this are going to happen in a playoff series as well. When you’re playing high-intensity basketball against the same team for anywhere from four to seven games in a row, you get under each other’s skin. The key will be for the Mavericks (mainly Luka) to not cave into those instigators and allow it to affect their game. Dallas won’t be able to afford any distractions while trying to slay the massive dragon that is the Clippers.
“We have a very tough matchup,” Rick Carlisle said Saturday. “This is a great opportunity for us. We know we’re playing a team at the very highest level of this league and it’s going to be very challenging (and) very physical.”
All great teams have to go through their share of playoff learning experiences before they can soar to the next level. With the Mavericks best players in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis both appearing in their first career NBA playoff games, the pressure will be on from the opening tip for them to match the intensity of a veteran-laden Clippers team that has known it will be contending in the postseason for months.
The series gets going on Monday night at 8 PM.
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) August 14, 2020
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