2024 Playoffs: West First Round | Clippers (4) vs. Mavericks (5)

NBA Playoffs: What to expect in Clippers-Mavericks series

In a series that features a combined 47 All-Star nods, Dallas' high-octane offense presents a stiff test for LA.

Luka Doncic and the Mavs are 0-2 in playoff series matchups vs. the Clippers.

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The Clippers won the regular-season series 2-1. But the clubs last matched up back in December. LA understands Dallas is now a vastly different team due to athletic additions at the trade deadline that juiced up a Mavs team already led by one of the NBA’s most lethal scorers.

These teams haven’t met in the postseason since 2021. LA ousted Dallas 4-3 in the first round that year and has ushered out the Mavericks in the last two postseasons they’ve met.

Series schedule

Here’s how to watch the Mavericks vs. Clippers series:

All times Eastern Standard Time

  • Game 1: Mavericks vs. Clippers; Sunday, April 21 (3:30 p.m., ABC)
  • Game 2: Mavericks vs. Clippers; Tuesday, April 23 (10 p.m., TNT)
  • Game 3: Clippers vs. Mavericks; Friday, April 26 (8 p.m., ESPN)
  • Game 4: Clippers vs. Mavericks; Sunday, April 28 (3:30 p.m., ABC)
  • Game 5: Mavericks vs. Clippers; Wednesday, May 1 (TBD, TBD)*
  • Game 6: Clippers vs. Mavericks; Friday, May 3 (TBD, TBD)*
  • Game 7: Mavericks vs. Clippers; Sunday, May 5 (TBD, TBD)*

* = If necessary

Top storyline

Star-studded stage. What better place than Los Angeles to start such a star-studded series in the opening round?

We’ll see Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook. Between those six, we’re talking about a combined 47 All-Star nods, two Kia MVPs, two NBA Finals MVPs and six scoring titles.

As star-studded as this affair is, keep in mind it’s the NBA Playoffs. That means some of the stars will shine brightly, while others will wilt in the spotlight on one of the game’s grandest stages.

Keep your eyes on

The tactics LA uses to slow down Doncic: Limiting the Dallas superstar’s impact will undoubtedly be priority No. 1 for the Clippers. We know Tyronn Lue is one of the league’s top tacticians. Ultimately, though, it’s the players that must execute the plan.

That won’t be easy against an offensive maven in Doncic, who routinely destroys defenses as a scorer and facilitator. The athletic lob-snatching additions of Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington help, too, along with his future Hall of Fame backcourt mate Kyrie Irving.

Who draws the assignment on Doncic? Leonard? George? Who checks Irving? Lue will deploy multiple strategies to keep Dallas’ stars off balance and guessing. If Leonard is healthy, Doncic is in for a tough matchup. But don’t sleep on Westbrook’s tenacity as a defender either.

1 more thing to watch for each team

For Mavericks: We’ve watched Dallas transform from a team reliant on the 3-pointer to one committed to consistently stacking stops. The new additions play a role in that as well as a tweak to the starting lineup that added Washington, Gafford and Derrick Jones Jr. Dallas’ new style of play should translate into postseason success. Let’s see how that goes.

For Clippers: The injury situation isn’t ideal. Harden is dealing with a foot ailment and Leonard is battling an inflamed right knee. Fully healthy, the Clippers possess enough talent to slow Dallas’ high-octane offense. But what LA lacks in health it can perhaps compensate for with experience. Harden, Leonard and George have played a combined 405 postseason games.

1 key number to know

8.4 — Taking away their last two games (in which they rested both Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving), the Mavs were 8.4 points per 100 possessions better after the trade deadline (plus-8.3, second best) than they were before it (minus-0.1, 17th). That was the league’s biggest improvement by a wide margin, and the much bigger improvement was on defense, where the Mavs ranked 22nd before the deadline and fifth between the deadline and those last two games.

Historically, there’s a bigger correlation between playoff success and how a team played early in the regular season than how it played late. And the Clippers were the better team in the season’s first and middle thirds. But the Mavs’ deadline trades made an impact, with their new starting lineup outscoring opponents by 15.5 points per 100 possessions, the fourth-best mark among 37 lineups that played at least 100 minutes after the deadline.

— John Schuhmann

The pick

Mavericks in six. Doncic and the Mavs ran off a 16-2 record near the end of the regular season before coasting to the finish line for extra rest ahead of the playoffs. Still, Dallas is carrying real momentum into the postseason against the banged-up Clippers. Yes, the Mavs are legit. They’re quietly the team nobody wants to see in these playoffs.

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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