Call it a case of déjà vu, but the Dallas Mavericks are playing the Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs again.
The Mavericks wrapped up the regular season with a dud against the Minnesota Timberwolves, 136-121. However, the game felt inconsequential. All it took was a Lakers win, and Dallas was locked into the No. 5 seed.
Dallas’ favorable standing on the last day of the season was due to a Southwest Division title, allowing for the Mavs to own any 3-way-tiebreaker between the Lakers, Portland, and themselves.
So instead many eyes were glued to Oklahoma City’s matchup with the Clippers in what can best be labeled as a tank-fest. OKC found a way to win, as LAC trotted out a lineup devoid of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. And due to the Clippers’ loss, Dallas fans now get round two between these two Western Conference heavyweights.
“It’s a great matchup, they have a hell of a team. It’ll be tough to beat them,” Luka Doncic said. “It was fun to play them last season.”
Kristaps Porzingis echoed similar thoughts.
“I am extremely excited to play them,” he said. “We are trying to play our best basketball.”
No one projected Dallas to be on the outside looking in when it came to the playoffs. The Las Vegas oddsmakers pegged them at 42.5 wins. However, there were moments when it looked like those 42.5 wins were an overestimation. Yet, at the sign of adversity, the Mavericks didn’t fold. There were moments where they waivered, but they always managed to correct the course of the season. And now, because of that heart and tenacity and never say die attitude, they get to partake in some of the sweetest moments in NBA history – the NBA playoffs.
context to the matchup:
Now if you forgot, the last time these two teams met in the playoffs the Clippers won 4-2. However, over the course of those six games, there was trash talk, bad blood, and animosity shared between players on both sides.
The matchup that drew most of the attention was Doncic and Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. Pleasantries were spared from both player’s perspectives, and now Doncic is faced with being guarded by Morris again. Still, Doncic asserts that there is no longer any animosity because Morris apologized to him after the series, he said.
Still, over the course of two weeks during the NBA Playoffs, things can drastically change. Don’t expect either team to pull any “figurative” punches.
In last season’s playoff series with the Clippers, Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t available for the majority of it due to a knee injury. He now gets a second chance to carve up the Clippers’ frontcourt. But, what is in question, is how well he will play on the defensive end of the floor. He hasn’t looked great on that end all season, and that isn’t going to magically change in the playoffs. The only way he makes up for his lackluster defense is if his offensive game is at an All-Star level.
With Porzingis’ offense firing on full cylinders, the sequel promises to be more exciting than the original in this case. Yet, if he doesn’t bring it offensively, the series might end up being Doncic against the world.
The regular season in closing:
Heading into Sunday night, the Mavericks needed one thing – a win. That clearly didn’t happen, with Doncic and Porzingis playing limited minutes down the stretch of a game that was decided prior to halftime. Instead, the Mavericks’ concerns were on keeping key players healthy and tuning up for an expected postseason run.
For now, the Mavericks have roughly a week to gameplan for a postseason foe they are all too familiar with. And this time, the hope is that they are on the winning side of the series outcome.
Feature image via Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports.