The Mavericks are back in their comfort zone tonight at the American Airlines Center after splitting a two-game road trip against the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers last week. Sunday night’s home game against the Los Angeles Clippers, who currently sit atop the Western Conference standings with a 15-6 record, is the start of a stretch of schedule where Dallas will play five out of six games at home.
With an 8-2 record at the AAC so far this season, Dallas will need to take advantage of this stretch to keep themselves in the crowded race for the final few playoff spots in the West standings. As for Sunday night’s contest, what are the most important things to consider?
What is fueling the Clips unexpectedly hot start?
If you had placed a wager on the Clippers being in first place in the Western Conference a month and a half into the season back in September, it’d be interesting to see what kind of odds that would have received. After seeing their three biggest stars in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan all leave within the last 18 months, things have definitely changed for coach Doc Rivers and the Clippers. To the surprise of most, it hasn’t been for the worse.
What seems to be fueling the Clippers so far is a strong and balanced offensive attack. The budding star Tobias Harris leads the team in points per game at 21.7 but Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are all not far behind and average at least 16 points per game. As a team, the Clippers are third in the league in scoring at close to 118 per contest. From deep, the L.A. is actually in the bottom five in the league of three point attempts per game at just over 25 per contest, but they have the second best three point made percentage at just over 38%.
Whose bench is better?
While we’ve all been salivating over the performance of the Mavs’ bench recently, the Clippers are certainly able to boast a pretty solid one themselves. Both Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell have been part of L.A.’s second unit all season and are having close to career years so far.
For Dallas, J.J. Barea was insanely great in November. The guard averaged close 13 points and 6 rebounds off the bench for Dallas last month and shot over 50% overall from the field. He did it all in just over 20 minutes per game. Bigs like Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber have provided important defensive presence and energy for Dallas in their second unit. However, both are questionable for tonight’s game as of Sunday morning.
Battle of top ten picks in the 2018 Draft
While Luka Doncic has obviously been the darling of the 2018 rookie class, the Clippers found themselves a quality pick down at the 11th pick last June. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the 6’6” points guard out of Kentucky, is coming off a solid 17 point, 5 rebound, 4 assist game when the Clippers took down the Kings last Thursday night.
After starting the season coming off the bench, the rookie has earned himself a spot in the starting lineup over the last month or so. With Patrick Beverly also on the roster, it’s no small feat to have earned your way into the starting five.
Bonus: This will be DeAndre Jordan’s first game against the Clippers as a Maverick. Jordan played his first ten NBA seasons with the Clippers… Los Angeles won the season series between these teams last year, 2-1. Interestingly, the lone win for the Mavericks came at home on December 2nd of last year… In what seems to be a new scheduling trend for this season, the Mavericks will tip-off a Sunday home game at 6 PM. Note the early start, and don’t show up late, Mavs fans!
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