The Dallas Mavericks must be feeling pretty good about themselves heading into Friday’s match up with the Los Angeles Clippers.
With the series tied at 1-1, Dallas made that happen with a resounding 127-114 win over Los Angeles on Wednesday. Luka Doncic proved why he is one of the best players in the NBA as he tallied 28 points and seven assists, both game-highs.
In the meantime, the Clippers have an arsenal of their own. Led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Los Angeles certainly has enough in the tank to take a series lead.
Leonard had 35 points on 10-of-21 shooting in Wednesday’s game. To his credit, George had 14. Nevertheless, it was not enough to stop a Dallas Mavericks team with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The bubble has produced some great basketball, and this series between these two teams is proving to be no different
So – how can the Mavericks take a commanding 2-1 series lead?
Here are three keys…
Continuing solid play off the bench:
A big part of Dallas’ win was their play off the bench. They had three bench players score in double figures. Trey Burke led the way with 16 points on seven-of-11 from the field. Seth Curry had 16 points, while Borban Marjanovic had 13 points.
Aside from just Dallas’s starters, the bench gave them a spark when they needed it. Dallas will need the bench to continue playing at a high level if they want to win.
Containing Kawhi Leonard:
It’s not enough to just stop Leonard, he is going to get his points. Containing him and contesting each shot is what Dallas will need to do in order to win this game. Leonard had 35 points in 41 minutes of play. Going 10-of-21 from the field, the Mavericks had trouble stopping him.
The Mavericks cannot afford to send him to the line. He went 13-of-14 on Wednesday. They need to force him to take shots from the outside and get a hand up each time he releases the basketball. If he has a chance to drive to the hoop, the Mavericks have already lost that battle. If they don’t force him to at least work for his points, it could be a long night.
Let Luka take over:
Watching Doncic play is poetry in motion. In his rookie season, he was the only redeeming part of the Dallas Mavericks. That may not be the case anymore, but he is still the focal point of their team. Just take Wednesday night’s victory for example.
He went 8-of-17 from the field and four-of-seven from beyond the arc. In total, he was a +11 and scored 28 points on the evening. He also managed to score points from the free-throw line, training eight of them in total.
If Dallas wants to win this game, they just need to give Luka the ball and let him work. He has become an absolute game changer, and I do not expect him to slow down anytime soon. Slowing him down is like trying to slow a moving train. You are better off just letting him roll and getting off the tracks.
With the Clippers looking to bounce back after Wednesday night’s loss, I would take them as the favorite at -5. Dallas will keep this game close, but it won’t be enough to stop Kawhi and friends.
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-- Danny the Geek