The LA Clippers and Dallas Mavericks are no stranger to one another. The two teams have faced off in the first round of the playoffs in two consecutive years, with the Clippers prevailing both times. Last year's first-round series went down to the wire, with Luka Doncic pushing the Clippers to the brink of elimination. Everything changes for Sunday's matchup if he is available.
Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd recently revealed that the team is hopeful that Luka Doncic can return for Sunday's matchup against the Clippers. The superstar has missed the team's previous two games with knee and ankle sprains. The Mavs dropped both of these games, and are looking to get back on track with two pivotal matchups coming up against the Clippers.
After dropping consecutive games with Luka sidelined, the Mavericks currently sit at 9-6, just a half game above the Clippers in the Western Conference standings. While it is still just November, the NBA's emphasis on reducing travel has created several of these mini series that often go a long way towards determining the season series between two teams. With the Clippers and Mavericks facing off on both Sunday and Tuesday, these games will have big implications on the Western Conference's playoff picture.
Opponent aside, the Clippers are in need of a win. After consecutive losses, and one coming against the Pelicans, the team is looking to get back on track. Without Kawhi Leonard, their margin for error is significantly lower in a Western Conference that is filled with teams hoping to fight for playoff positioning. A win against the Mavericks, especially if Luka plays, would go a long way towards not only improving the Clippers' seeding situation, but their confidence as well.
Assuming Luka plays, it will be interesting to see how the Clippers opt to defend him. In last year's playoffs, even while he was going off, the Clippers chose to defend him straight up without sending a double. What made this strategy practical, was that the Clippers had the ability to deploy one of the greatest wing defenders of all-time in Kawhi Leonard.
Kawhi guarded Luka more than any other Clipper in last year's playoffs, and held him to just 38.5% from the field in 141 possessions. The player who guarded him the most after Kawhi, and the player that the Clippers will likely start on Luka assuming he plays on Sunday, is Nicolas Batum. Batum is having a fantastic season on the defensive end so far, and has anchored a Clippers' defense that ranks 2nd in the NBA. Luka shot 52% from the field in the 85 possessions that Batum guarded him last postseason, so it wasn't necessarily an advantageous matchup for the Clippers, but nothing really is against Luka.
Considering this is a regular season game at the end of November, it is unlikely that Ty Lue will start Paul George on Luka Doncic, but deploying PG for the Luka assignment may be a needed option at some point. In the 80 possessions that George guarded Doncic last postseason, Luka shot just 42.9% from the field, which was well below his series average.
All of the aforementioned is of course only relevant is Luka indeed plays; however, head coach Jason Kidd has certainly left the door open for that possibility.
How to Watch
Matchup: LA Clippers (9-7) vs. Dallas Mavericks (9-6)
Date: November 21st, 2021
Time: 12:30 PM PST
Venue: Staples Center
Broadcast: Bally Sports
Spread: Clippers -3.5
Moneyline: Clippers -156, Mavericks +132
Point Total: O/U 215.5
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook