The LA Clippers are hanging on to the best record in the NBA at 13-2, and they take their flawless away from home record (6-0) for the longest road trip of the season starting tonight at Dallas:
Clippers embark on season-long 6-game road trip – the longest road trip since Jan/Feb 2015. What is the hardest part of the trip?
— ClipperBlog (@clipperblog) November 23, 2016
The Clippers won 3 of 4 games last season against the Mavericks, with the most recent matchup taking place at STAPLES Center in April. The Clippers played excellent defense down the stretch last season and held the Mavericks to only 18 assists and 14 turnovers in a 98-91 win. In the last meeting in Dallas, the Clippers won 109-90 in March, a game that saw PG Chris Paul drop 27 points on 12-of-18 FGs and C DeAndre Jordan put up 23 points on only 7 shots, with 20 rebounds and 2 blocks. The last time the Mavericks beat the Clippers was in November 2015, Jordan’s first visit to Dallas after notoriously reneging with the Mavericks. Dallas PF Dirk Nowitzki had 31 points and 11 rebounds while making 11-of-14 from the field.
The Clippers offense has been the bigger factor lately as they come off a 123-115 win over the Raptors Monday night. LA has the 2nd-best offense in the league for the season, behind only Golden State. Dallas is on the other end of that spectrum, as they have the NBA’s worst record at 2-11 and the worst offense to go with it. While the Clippers outscored the Raptors by the same margin that they won the game Monday night (8 points), the Mavericks lost 96-91 in San Antonio Monday night while also getting outscored by 5 points from the FT line.
The problem for Dallas is simple – they don’t make shots, shooting a league-low 40.7 percent from the field. Now, Nowitzki is expected to return tonight after being out since November 4th with an Achilles injury. But the 9th pick of the 1998 NBA Draft (one before Clippers forward Paul Pierce!) is one of three players on the Mavericks that average at least 10 FGAs per game while making less than 40 percent from the field. Nowitzki is shooting 35.9 percent from the field, PG Deron Williams (questionable-calf) is shooting 39.7 percent, and SG Wesley Matthews is shooting 32.9 percent from the field.
Williams is on the wrong side of questionable, so the 3rd pick of the 2005 NBA Draft is unlikely to meet up with Paul (4th pick in 2005 Draft) and Clippers PG Raymond Felton (5th pick in 2005 Draft); Felton was with the Mavericks the previous two seasons. The 1st pick of that 2005 NBA Draft, C Andrew Bogut, will play despite being listed with a calf injury of his own. (No word on whether or not the Hornets will allow Marvin Williams, the 2nd overall pick in 2005, to make an appearance at American Airlines Center.) Despite the good news about Bogut’s availability, the Mavericks may be concerned about their ability to maintain what has been solid defense in the few minutes that Bogut and Nowitzki share the court together:
#Mavericks = T-8th in D efficiency (101.5 points/100 possessions)
In 22 minutes together, Nowitzki/Bogut allow 133.0 points/100 poss.
— Law Murray 🙌🏿 (@LawMurrayTheNU) November 23, 2016
Bogut is in his first season in Dallas along with another former Warrior, SF Harrison Barnes (21.2 points, 5.9 rebounds per game, both career-highs). They’ll see former Warriors C Marreese Speights, now with the Clippers. In addition to Williams, Dallas will be without guards Jose Barea (calf) and Devin Harris (toe), which will thrust Seth Curry and Jonathan Gibson into the lineup. As many of you know, I covered the Drew League over the last three seasons, and Gibson gets buckets everywhere he goes: The Drew, China, NBA Summer League, and now Dallas:
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) November 20, 2016
The biggest thing to watch for as far as the Clippers offense goes is control. Paul has improved his shooting from the end of last week, but he has turned the ball over 4 times in each of the last two games. The Mavericks force 16.9 turnovers per game, the most in the NBA. Interestingly, it’s backup big man Dwight Powell that leads the team with 20 steals (1.5 per game). But one thing that hasn’t been discussed much is how well Blake Griffin has handled the ball this season – Griffin is averaging a career-low 1.6 turnovers per game this season to go along with 4.4 assists per game. No other big man with a usage rate over 20 percent has a better assist-turnover rate than Griffin’s 2.75; Griffin has a 27.2 percent usage rate this season.