The Mavericks and Clippers have a combined 16 new players on their respective rosters, but Wednesday night at Staples Center there will be plenty of familiar faces between the two teams.
There are longtime Clippers Elton Brand and Chris Kaman, who manned the frontcourt for the 2005-06 Western Conference Semifinalists. There is Lamar Odom, who played 50 games in his only season with the Mavericks last year. There is newly signed point guard Derek Fisher, one of the most well-known figures in recent Los Angeles basketball lore; O.J. Mayo, one of the most notorious college players in recent L.A. history; and Caron Butler, who missed the final five months of his only stint with the Mavericks after suffering a ruptured patellar tendon but served as an inspiration during the team’s run to the 2011 NBA title.
“We know it’s going to be a pretty good battle because of the prior history of players on each team,” Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said. “We’ve just got to come out with that defensive mentality because they have scorers and they like to run a little bit.”
The Clippers (11-6) come in riding a three-game winning streak. They are one of only two Western Conference teams that has not alternated wins and losses at least once this year. Dallas (8-9) is well-rested, having not played since Saturday, but has lost three of its previous four.
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 105, Jazz 104: The Clippers overcame a 14-point deficit and 56.8% shooting from the Jazz to become the first team to win at Energy Solutions Arena in seven tries this season. Despite a poor start, their defense tightened up late, Chris Paul converted two layups in the final 1:34, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Chuancey Billups made six of their nine free throws to ice the game, and Blake Griffin scored a season-high 30 points with 11 rebounds.
“I was pleased we finally showed up in the second half,” Del Negro said. “As bad as we played, I was happy that we were still in striking distance at halftime and as the game went on we got our rhythm. And in the fourth quarter we played more desperate. We started to guard, we started to rebound, we started to play more physical, and offensively we made plays down the stretch.”
Still, it took a blocked shot by Jordan on a runner by Al Jefferson and a brief scare on an errant inbounds pass that Randy Foye retrieved with 0.7 seconds left to keep Utah at bay. Foye’s desperation heave after Billups threw the ball away was waved off and would not have counted had it gone.
Mavericks 92, Pistons 77: Dallas returned home from three road losses to pull away from the Pistons in a 50-29 second half. They held Detroit to 77 points, three shy of their season, low and appeared to get Mayo out of a recent shooting slump. He scored 27 points on 10-for-21 shooting (6-for-9 from 3-point range) to lead all scorers. Mayo was just 11-for-34 from the field in his previous three games. Brand added 17 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots off the bench, while Greg Monroe had eight points and 15 rebounds and point guard Brandon Knight scored a team-high 20 points.
DeAndre Jordan vs. Chris Kaman. Jordan spent the first two years of his career as Kaman’s backup in Los Angeles, before starting 66 games in Kaman’s stead in 2010-11 as the former Clippers first-round pick was nursing an ankle injury. They have faced each other only once since Kaman was dealt from the Clippers prior to last season as part of the Chris Paul trade. In the only trip to New Orleans, where Kaman spent 2011-12, Jordan scored 14 points with nine rebounds compared to Kaman’s 20-point, 10-rebound game.
On Wednesday, Kaman will be a focal point for Dallas in the half-court. “We know Chris Kaman, he can score out of the post,” Griffin said.
Jordan will look to build on his fourth-quarter defense against Utah’s Al Jefferson, where Jordan not only effectively saved the game with a soaring blocked shot, but also made Jefferson uncomfortable throughout the period. While Kaman and Jefferson are different players, they both are capable scorers away from the paint. Kaman is making 49% of his shots from outside of 10 feet this year, averaging 5.1 attempts per game.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
3-point shooting. Defending on the perimeter has been a bit of a problem at times for the Clippers this season. They have a record of 3-4 when opponents shoot 40% or better from beyond the arc and have allowed more than eight 3-pointers in eight games (curiously, winning five of them). The Mavericks, led by Mayo’s 52.7% with 49 makes, can be deadly from distance. They have two regular rotation players among the league leaders in 3-point field goals (Mayo and Vince Carter) and are fourth in the NBA (39.4%) from 3-point range as a team. They have also won six of the last nine games against the Clippers in which they have made more shots from distance.
Dallas’ depth. Even without superstar Dirk Nowitzki (knee) the Mavericks remain one of the deeper teams in the Western Conference. Carter, Brand, and Darren Collison are all longtime starters in the league and have all contributed off the bench.
“They’re scrappy. They signed [Derek Fisher],” Del Negro said. “They’ve got different guys in and out of the lineup. They’ve dealt with a lot of injuries. We’ve got to come mentally ready to play.”
Asked about the way Dallas looks without their franchise player, Griffin said, “It gives them a much different look, but I wouldn’t say it makes them worse. Obviously, he’s a great player and he’s going to help when he comes back, but guys are stepping up for them and guys are playing well. It’s going to be a tough matchup no matter if he’s on the floor or not.”
The Clippers won two of their three matchups with Dallas last year, including earning a 91-89 victory at Staples Center when Billups canned a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1.0 second left. That game aired on ESPN, as will Wednesday’s matchup… The Clippers (16.5 points per game) and the Mavericks (16.8 points per game) are two of the top scoring teams in the league on the break… Chris Paul has averaged 21.8 points in 23 career games against Dallas, the third most against any opponent.