Mavericks must be wary of underrated Clipper who could scorch them in playoffs

Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks
Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks / Tim Heitman/GettyImages

The Dallas Mavericks are finally back in the playoffs after missing out on last season's festivities by placing 11th in the Western Conference. That snapped the team's three consecutive postseason appearances.

In the 2023-24 campaign, Dallas is slated to finish the regular season with the No. 5 seed and face the LA Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. Some folks believe the Mavs are fortunate to catch a Clippers squad at its most vulnerable state.

However, things won't be as easy as it seems for Dallas, even if the team is going to face an opponent that fans have been begging for. LA has a few dangerous weapons in its arsenal, including Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and James Harden. 

Mavericks must be wary of Russell Westbrook during playoffs

Another player the Mavs have to be prepared for is former MVP Russell Westbrook, whose move to the Clippers' bench helped salvage their season. Most people talk about Leonard, Harden, or George when discussing the Clippers, but Westbrook can be a massive threat as well.

Moreover, it seemed like LA was poised to slide in the standings in early March when Westbrook had to sit out 12 games because of a hand injury. Instead of contending for a top-three seed, the Clippers struggled during that stretch, going 6-6 to stay at the fourth spot in the West. At the same time, Dallas was gradually rising in the standings from eighth place.

However, the nine-time All-Star's return appeared to have righted the Clippers' ship. They went 7-2 in his first nine contests back to help the franchise eventually secure the No. 4 seed and have home-court advantage in the first round. He even sent out a warning to the rest of the league, saying, "Ain't nobody better than me coming off the bench in this league."

The statement was not have been targeted at the Mavs, but they should probably treat it seriously. After all, the energy and defensive intensity Westbrook brings whenever he takes to the court could prove to be a threat to Dallas' aspirations of making a deep playoff run.

Furthermore, LA won its last two battles against the Mavs to win their regular-season series 2-1. Those victories came with Westbrook in a reserve role. These games had extremely different rosters, but Westbrook has been good against the Mavs this season and is averaging 12.7 points per game against them.

Dallas will likely have to match the veteran point guard's verve to secure an advantage in what is expected to be an electrifying series. Fortunately, the squad has a couple of players who can bring that to the table, particularly Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington, and he'l be one of the Mavs' X-factors in the playoffs. It's also worth noting that both of them were still wearing different jerseys when the team lost twice to the Clippers.

So, while LA might have plenty of star firepower, the Mavs have aces up their sleeve.

Stay tuned with us for more updates on the upcoming Dallas Mavericks-Los Angeles Clippers matchup in the 2024 NBA Playoffs.