Mavericks' unanticipated kryptonite is clear after Game 1 loss to Clippers

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Clippers - Game One
Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Clippers - Game One / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

With anticipation brewing amongst fans for the last few weeks ahead of the third matchup between the Mavericks and Clippers in the first round since the genesis of the Luka Doncic era, the Dallas Mavericks lost Game 1 in debilitating fashion by a score of 109-97.

The Mavericks struggled to string together consistent offensive possessions until late in the game, as the length of the Clippers' defense halted the Mavericks' ball movement and forced Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving to play hero ball at times.

The amount of defensive versatility in the Clippers' lineup allows them to be comfortable with letting Irving and Doncic play one-on-one against the likes of Terrance Mann, Paul George, or Amir Coffey on occasion. The rest of the Clippers' lineup did a great job of shutting off passing lanes for Irving and Doncic all game long, as Clippers' head coach Tyronn Lue is doing a great job at getting his defense to play toward Dallas' weak-points.

Mavericks' interior struggles were a weakness in Game 1 loss to Clippers

This puts pressure on Dallas' role players to step up in this series, as the Clippers are banking on the fact Derrick Jones Jr., P.J. Washington, Dante Exum, Tim Hardaway Jr., as well as Josh Green won't be competent enough offensively for the Mavericks to win the series. The Mavericks must find a solution to this issue to win this series, but that isn't the only thing that plagued the Mavericks in their Game 1 loss versus LA.

Despite getting played off the floor routinely in previous playoff matchups versus the Mavericks, Clippers center Ivica Zubac finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds on 10-17 shooting from the field. Zubac only finished with one block, but it should be noted that he played stout defense in this contest as well, as Zubac deterred Dallas' pick-and-roll game with his size in drop coverage.

Zubac was dominant from the jump, and the Mavericks weren't able to exploit his perimeter defense on switches nor did they do a good job of drawing favorable switches on pick-and-rolls. Zubac used his post-game to score against Dallas' bigs with ease, as Daniel Gafford, Maxi Kleber, and Dereck Lively II weren't able to match the Croatian's immense strength and footwork in the interior. Zubac was also a monster on the glass, often generating second and third attempts for the Clippers offense with tip-outs and offensive rebounds.

While Gafford and Lively II need to summon some more horsepower when guarding and boxing Zubac out in Game 2, the Mavericks need to do a better job at attacking the glass collectively as well as rotating help over from the low-man if Zubac continues to be this dominant.

Dallas can afford for the likes of Kawhi Leonard (when he returns from injury) and Paul George to make some tough buckets in this series, but letting Zubac kill them in the interior won't do them any favors toward winning this series, especially when you take into consideration that the Mavericks' interior play has been a strength heading into this series. Perhaps the Mavericks will play more lineups featuring Maxi Kleber at the four with another center to help mend this issue, but that could lead to some spacing issues on the other end.

It remains to be seen what adjustments the Mavericks will make in Game 2 versus the Clippers, but it will be fascinating to see if Gafford and Lively II can find a way to slow down Zubac.

For more on the Dallas Mavericks' series against the Clippers, stay tuned as we will have you covered throughout the playoffs.