Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas Mavericks
American Airlines Center
8:30 p.m. PST
January 3, 2013
FOX Prime Ticket
1. What Mavs weak spot would the Clippers be best off attacking?
Luke Laubhan, (@lukelaubhan): The Mavericks are generally bad at defense, and bad defensive teams are best exploited by crisp ball movement and active offensive players, as opposed to ball-stopping super-talents or meandering one-on-one possessions. The Clippers should emphasize efficient activity – run screens, get Griffin and Crawford moving, push the ball in transition – and force the aging Mavs to chase them.
Aaron Fischman, (@aaronhartf): With the exception of the dud against Phoenix, Blake Griffin has been playing out of his mind as of late. That, coupled with the Mavericks’ subpar defense at the four, could spell trouble for the visiting Mavs. Nowitzki is too slow to adequately guard Griffin. Conversely, if they try Marion on him, Griffin should have a field day posting up the 6-foot-7 forward.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): Live in the restricted area. The Mavericks don’t really have a rim protector and their guards (Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis) paired with their starting power forward (Dirk) don’t exactly make up for the best defensive possessions. That’s how Dallas allows its opponents to shoot the fifth-highest percentage in the restricted area in the league. Meanwhile, the Clippers shoot the second-best percentage in the restricted area. They have to exploit that flaw.
2. What’s the next step Blake Griffin needs to take with his jump shot?
Laubhan: Keep shooting in rhythm, because it’s working. Blake is 11th in the league in scoring in large part due to his usual array of dunks, contorted power post-ups, and quick baseline moves, but his jumpshot is noticeably better (41.5 percent on catch-and-shoot field goals), seemingly because he’s shooting with confidence. When Griffin hesitates, the hitch reappears, or he delays his release too long. Let fly, Blake!
Fischman: He doesn’t need to take any more steps this season beyond what he’s been doing. Last season, Griffin took approximately 3.5 shots from 15-to-24 feet per game, converting 33.7 percent of them. This season, he’s taking 5.1 of those shots per game and enjoying a 40.0-percent success rate. If he stays confident and continues to take those jumpers in rhythm without hesitation, Griffin’s improved shooting should continue.
Katz: Consistency. Griffin’s shot looks great some nights, like when he went 7-for-10 on mid-range jumpers against the Bobcats Wednesday, but it doesn’t always look great. Once he finds a consistent release point around his forehead, lets go of the ball the ball when he’s ascending and not descending, and starts to shoot in rhythm with every shot, the improvements to his jumper will be even more obvious.
3. How do the Clippers defend Dirk Nowitzki?
Laubhan: It’s probably not appropriate to dispatch Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson to the Mavs’ locker room pre-game to shake Dirk down – the next best option is to use said players (especially Barnes) and Griffin to immediately pressure Dirk on the catch and funnel his drives directly into DeAndre Jordan. That’s the plan, anyway. Sometimes Dirk renders your plan irrelevant.
Fischman: Whoever is guarding Nowitzki must stay close to him even when he’s off the ball. He has one of the quickest releases around and can really hurt opponents from the three-point line even if they slip for a split second; he’s done it his entire career. Dirk is so offensively creative that this tactic will be tough to implement, but the Clippers should try to force Nowitzki into the key in range of DeAndre Jordan’s length.
Katz: Make Dirk put the ball on the floor. Dirk is always great. Always. But the times when he starts looking worse come when he is dribbling. If you let Dirk catch-and-shoot, he’s going to destroy you. If you let him post up and shoot those high fadeaways over a smaller 4 in Blake Griffin, he’s going to have a field day. But if you can force him to penetrate and drive him in the direction of a just-as-long DeAndre Jordan, you have a shot to contain him and with that, contain the Mavs’ offense.