DALLAS - With the the first round of the NBA playoffs just hours away, the status of one of the Dallas Mavericks' best defenders is becoming more clear. The Mavs list Maxi Kleber as "probable" for Game 1 of the Mavs' playoff series vs. the Los Angeles Clippers, which begins Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CT in LA.
The 6-foot-10 big man has been battling an Achilles issue off and on, causing him to miss most of the last two weeks of the regular season, with him playing limited minutes in only two of the final eight games for the Mavs.
His availability is crucial for the Mavs to attempt to slow down Clippers star Kawhi Leonard, who averaged 32.8 points against Dallas in the first-round playoffs series last season.
There is reason to be optimistic that Kleber will be ready to go; Kleber went through a large portion of Wednesday’s practice, according to coach Rick Carlisle.
“Today he went through parts of the contact portion of practice, and there was a large contact portion of practice and did well, to my knowledge," Carlisle said Wednesday. "Some of this is the test of how it’s going to feel the next day. But we’re hoping that he’s going to be OK. He’s obviously a big part of our team, whether he’s a starter or coming off the bench....We’re hopeful. And that’s about all I can tell you at this point. We’re going to have to see how the next couple days go.”
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Dallas would definitely miss Kleber's solid three-point shooting and ability to switch off of bigger players and guards.
Leonard, in the first round last season (32.8 points), had to deal with Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith and, occasionally, Dončić guarding him.
If Maxi is limited, the Mavs could rely more on Dorian Finney-Smith to guard Leonard, as well as Doncic, occasionally. There also would be more minutes available for Nicolo Melli. (J.J. Redick, by the way, is listed as "out'' for the game.)
“This Achilles thing has been manageable to an extent," said Carlisle last week. “It’s tough on any player. And it’s tough for a guy who really depends on his quickness to guard smaller guys on switches, to protect the rebound, rebound, those kind of things.”