The off days are doing wonders for the Dallas Mavericks (44-31), who woke up Wednesday morning on the outside looking in for the playoff race. They ended up the night back in 7th place, as the Suns and Grizzlies both dropped their games. The Mavericks finished their franchise long home stand at just 4-4 on that stretch, and will now head on the road for five of their last seven games. That stretch starts tonight in Game 1 at the Staples Centeras the Mavs will take on the Los Angeles Clippers (54-22).
The Game At Hand:
What else is there to know? It’s playoff basketball every game for the Mavs for the rest of the season. They are taking on a Clippers team that they could still end up facing in the 1st round of the playoffs, and a team that they very well should have beaten all three times they have squared off.
At A Glance:
- This marks the fourth and final meeting this season; Clippers lead 3-0 (They shouldn’t)
- Possible playoff matching – Will you play San Antonio, Oklahoma City or Los Angeles.
It’s a season where you just have to ask yourself, “What if?” What if the Mavericks didn’t blow such big leads or leads late in games? You could take those 3 blown leads against the Clippers, and all of a sudden, the Mavs are sitting at 47-28, which would have them in 6th and just a couple games out of the 5th spot.
The Mavericks were once again in a position to take another huge game Tuesday night, but the lack of defense in situations has been the achilles heal all season long. That must begin to change, and there is no better time than right now. They are on the road, but facing a Clippers squad fresh off of 17 point come from behind victory in Phoenix last night.
Keys To The Game:
1. Be Physical, But Smart
Maybe it’s just me, but it feels as if the Mavericks and Clippers are starting to create a nice little rivalry. The Clippers play physical, and while that hasn’t always been one of the Mavericks strong skill sets, they seem to be ready to fight back. There is a right and wrong way to go about that. They need to make sure they come ready to fight but do it in a smart way and not let their emotions get the best of them.
2. Reserves Must Come Through
While we already know how talented the Clippers starting five is, they are missing Jamal Crawford. J.J. Redick is said to have a 75% chance of returning to the lineup however. The Mavericks need to take advantage of the tired legs that the Clippers should be dealing with tonight, and that is where the bench comes in. To be able to offer Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion time to rest, but still feel good about building on a lead is something that could prove to be extremely valuable tonight.
Matchup of the Night:
Mavs Guards vs Chris Paul
The best point guard in the game is a hand full for any team. The Mavericks guards have to find a way to slow Chris Paul down. He hit some huge shots in last nights come from behind victory over Phoenix, and is one of the true gamers the NBA has to offer. He can hurt you in all areas of the game, whether it be shooting, passing, or defending. Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, and Devin Harris must protect the ball and do their very best to limit the highlight plays that Chris Paul and the rest of Lob City can put on display.
“It’s almost like a rivalry now to a certain degree, and it’s kind of fun and it’s exciting. It’s a talented team and they’re really deep at every spot. You know, it’s going to be good. They’re playing very good ball, and of course the head of the snake is Chris Paul. - Shawn Marion
“We just find ways to win. We believe we can win in every game.” - Clippers Head Coach, Doc Rivers
When and Where:
Tip-off at American Airlines Center tonight is at 9:30 p.m. CST. The game will be televised nationally on TNT.
5. Portland Trail Blazers (49-27) | Next 3 – PHO, NOP & SAC
6. Golden State (46-29) | Next 3 – SAC, UTA, & DEN
7. Dallas Mavericks (44-31) | Next 3 – @LAC, @LAL & @SAC
8. Memphis Grizzlies (44-31) | Next 3 – DEN, @SAS & MIA
9. Phoenix Suns (44-31) | Next 3 – @POR, OKC & @NO
Photos courtesy of Sharon Ellman & Zachary Steiber
Quotes via Clippers.com and Mavs.com
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