This is not the same Clippers team that the Mavs played in Orlando last year. They lost key players in Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams but added Rajon Rondo, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, and DeMarcus Cousins.
Here are five key players on the LA Clippers that the Dallas Mavericks need to focus on during the series this year.
Dallas Mavericks opponent to watch 5. Ivica Zubac
Ivica Zubac is the Clipper’s starting center and the seven-footer can be difficult to guard in the paint. If the Dallas Mavericks want to win the series, they have to stop him from getting offensive rebounds and scoring.
Dallas Mavericks opponent to watch 4. Paul George
Paul George has always been a good player during the NBA regular season. The Mavericks should be worried that PG-13 is trying to prove that he can be clutch in the playoffs. If George starts making a lot of shots, Mavs will have no chance but to double-team him.
Dallas Mavericks opponent to watch 3. Patrick Beverley
The Mavericks shouldn’t be concerned about Patrick Beverley’s scoring. What they do need to worry about is if he is guarding Luka Doncic throughout the game.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue will put him on Doncic to mess with his mind and force bad shots. Beverley is known to get in opponent’s faces with the high energy he brings during the playoffs.
Luka let his emotions boil over frequently this season. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle must sit down with his 22-year-old superstar and go over exercises on how to calm down on the court, so he doesn’t pick up technical fouls and get ejected.
Dallas Mavericks opponent to watch 2. Luke Kennard
Luke Kennard has improved since he was on the Detroit Pistons. Even though he comes off the bench, Kennard can still give you valuable minutes with his outside shooting.
The Mavs bench needs to keep him in check or else the game could get out of hand quickly. It will be interesting to see if Kennard makes a difference in the series.
Dallas Mavericks opponent to watch 1. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is the best player on the Clippers and it shows. Averaging 25 points per game, Dallas can’t let Leonard get an open look for a basket.
This is where Mavs fans wish James Johnson was still on the team to guard him. Hopefully, Dorian Finney-Smith or Josh Richardson can keep Leonard from dropping 30-plus a night. Who defends Kawhi is one of the key matchups of the series.
This will probably be the second biggest matchup in round one of the Western Conference Playoffs this year. NBA fans will be watching to see if Luka Doncic gets his revenge and lifts the Dallas Mavericks to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2011.