In a playoff rematch, the Dallas Mavericks will get another chance to take down the Los Angeles Clippers. Will they come out on top this go around?
Last year, the Mavericks fell short against the Clippers after losing the series in six games. Luka Doncic put up big numbers with averages of 31.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 8.7 assists. He also was the youngest player in NBA history to convert on a game-winning shot in the playoffs.
One of the key factors in last year's series was Kristaps Porzingis' lack of availability. He was ejected in Game 1 and was sidelined for the last three games due to injury. He made a tremendous impact when he was on the floor with an average of 23.7 points, but it just wasn't for long enough.
The Mavericks came away from the series with a need to improve defensively and did so by trading for Josh Richardson. Meanwhile, the Clippers made it a focus to add more shooting and did so with Luke Kennard, Serge Ibaka, and Nicolas Batum.
There was a sizable gap in the win-total when comparing the Clippers and Mavericks. Los Angeles finished with a 47-25 record while Dallas was sitting at 42-30. The end result wasn't all that different as the Clippers earned the fourth seed and the Mavs were just one spot behind.
Here are some intriguing storylines entering Game 1 of the Mavericks' playoff series against the Clippers. ... in Mavs Donuts ...
DONUT 1. AAC 'Near' Full Capacity
The American Airlines Center will be more packed for the playoffs than it has been throughout the regular season. The Mavericks will host fans at 'near' full capacity (over 15,000) and will require fans to wear masks when they are not eating or drinking.
That all starts for Game 3 in Dallas. See the schedule above.
DONUT 2. J.J. Redick 'Unlikely' To Play In Series
The Mavericks acquired J.J. Redick at the NBA trade deadline with the intention of bolstering the team's shooting for the playoffs. He's been ruled out for Game 1 and has been declared 'unlikely' to play altogether in Round 1 of the playoffs.
DONUT 3. Serge Ibaka's Recent Return
The top offseason addition the Clippers made was Serge Ibaka in free agency. His stretch-5 impact provides needed floor spacing and will enable Los Angeles to go small. His contributions as a weak-side help defender will go a long way, too.
DONUT 4. Clippers' Perimeter Shooting
There may not be a team in the NBA who has a more potent cast of perimeter shooting threats than the Clippers. In fact, their output of 1.237 points per possession is comfortably the best mark in the NBA. Can the Mavericks counter this level of shooting?
DONUT 5. Marcus Morris Apologizes To Luka Doncic
When Marcus Morris initially fouled Luka Doncic hard during last year's NBA playoff series, he proclaimed he is "not apologizing for s--t."
Before this series, both players made it clear there is no hard feelings between them.
Luka, for his part, suggests he kinda likes trash talk. Will tempers flare again? Stay tuned...
DONUT 6. Maxi Kleber's Health
Entering the 2021 NBA playoffs, Maxi Kleber is listed as probable with right Achilles soreness.
Having frontcourt help that can switch onto perimeter players and knock down three-pointers is important. Will he stay healthy?
DONUT 7. Tim Hardaway Jr. Approaches Free Agency
The Mavericks will need to decide how much they want to spend in order to bring back Tim Hardaway Jr. With an impressive outing in the 2021 NBA playoffs, the cost to get a deal done could go up.
DONUT 8. Will Josh Richardson Make His Mark?
When the Mavericks made the decision to trade for Josh Richardson, it was done with the intent of being better suited for the NBA playoffs. Well, now that the time has arrived, will he make a substantial impact?
DONUT 9. Possible Kristaps Porzingis' Emergence
Much has been made about Kristaps Porzingis impact entering the 2021 NBA playoffs. His lack of availability has been a concern throughout the last two seasons.
The perception will change if he can make a major "life or death'' (his words) impact against the Clippers while playing in each of the games.
DONUT 10. Paul George Is In A Better Place
The NBA Bubble was not an easy set of circumstances and was harder one some than others. Paul George had a tough time dealing with it and claims it makes a 'big difference' not being in that setting. Will that translate to different results this time around?
DONUT 11. Can Mavs Slow Down Kawhi ... If Yes, Does He Leave?
As any team would, the Mavericks struggled to contain Kawhi Leonard during their playoff matchup last year. He averaged a dominant 32.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 2.3 steals in 6 appearances.
Will Dallas get the job done this time around? If so, will he stay with the Clippers?
DONUT 12. Can Mavs Take Down Title Contender?
The Clippers aren't considered the front-runner to win the NBA championship as they were considered by many entering last year's playoffs. However, managing to take down a top team could go a long way for the Mavericks could be a big recruiting tool in free agency.
DONUT 13. The Final Word
There was significant speculation about whether the Clippers overtly tanked the end of the regular season in order to face the Mavericks in the first-round. Dorian Finney-Smith acknowledged this in an interview .... so expect it to be prime bulletin-board material.
The quote from Finney-Smith? “If they (Clippers) tanked them last two games to play us, then we tanked the last game to play them too. We want this matchup.”