The Los Angeles Clippers have gone from the internet’s favorite punching bag to favorites to win this series against the Dallas Mavericks. Game 5 is the critical matchup in a 2-2 series, but it sure does feel like the Clippers are in control after taking both games in Dallas, including Sunday’s 106-81 win in Game 4.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Wednesday, June 02, 2021 – 10:00 PM EDT at STAPLES Center
For the 13th game in a row, the Clippers are favored to win. This time Los Angeles is a 7-point favorite at many top sportsbooks. The Clippers have only covered the spread five times in their last 15 games, but they did so in both games in Dallas in this series. Can Luka Doncic shake off the worst playoff game of his career to give the Mavericks a chance on Wednesday night?
Reminder: The Clippers Are Great
While this series should be evenly matched given it is the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in the Western Conference, the truth is the Clippers won five more games than Dallas in the regular season and were statistically superior. In fact, the Clippers finished No. 2 in Net Rating and double-digit victories (31) this season, behind only the Utah Jazz (39).
The Lakers were not the only Los Angeles team to see its top two players miss a lot of games as Kawhi Leonard (20) and Paul George (18) both missed a quarter of the season. The Clippers tied with Denver for the third-most wins (47) in the conference, and Brooklyn is the only team in the league with a higher true shooting percentage this season. Keep that in mind when heading to betting sites.
It was surprising to see the Clippers drop the first two games at home in this series, but they still had strong performances from Leonard, who averaged 33.5 points on 53.5% shooting from the field. George, despite his bad playoff reputation, still averaged 25.5 points on 50% shooting. He just could not buy a basket from three in the first two games as he hit 3-of-15 threes. However, he hit 5-of-12 from deep in Dallas to turn that around for a Los Angeles team (41.1%) that was the only offense to hit more than 40% from three in the regular season.
This series could end up being one cruel lesson in regression for Dallas fans. In the regular season, Dallas was average at best from three-point territory, ranked 18th in 3P% (36.2%).
In Game 1, Dallas hit 47.2% of its threes, one of the team’s best games this season. In Game 2, the Mavericks did even better, finishing at 52.9%, the team’s second-best game. They stayed hot in Game 3 at 51.3%, but the Clippers were a little better in the fourth quarter to get the win.
But in Game 4, Dallas finished 5-of-30 (16.7%) from three, the team’s worst game of the season. Doncic was only 1-of-7 from three, the worst he has ever done in a playoff game. He hit at least five threes in each of the first three games this series.
Tim Hardaway Jr. was a solid 39.1% three-point shooter for Dallas this season. He was phenomenal in Games 1-3 of this series, hitting 15-of-23 (65.2%) from deep, an unsustainable rate. In Game 4, he missed all four of his attempts and scored just four points. He is 5-of-22 from the field in the last two games.
Dallas was shooting lights out to start this series before things regressed to the mean. The Clippers have been the better shooting team throughout the season and were rewarded with better games in Dallas. Leonard enhanced his strong play with 75% shooting from the field in Dallas. George shot 50% on the road just as he did at home.
The stars of the Clippers should continue to deliver in this series. Can Dallas get Doncic the help he needs at a critical time?
Game 4: Doncic’s Neck Strain
All 10 of Doncic’s playoff games have been against the Clippers the last two seasons. However, Sunday’s Game 4 performance was the worst game he has had yet in the postseason and his health (neck strain) is the likely main culprit for that.
Doncic scored 19 points as he only shot 9-of-24 (37.5%) from the field and missed all five of his free throws. His free throw shooting has been poor in this whole series, dipping under 60% in all four games. The Clippers are the NBA’s best free throw shooting team at 83.9%.
Doncic also finished with six rebounds, the first time he did not have seven boards in a playoff game. His six assists were only the second time he did not have at least seven assists.
There has not been a lot of help for Luka in this series. Aside from Hardaway Jr. going cold at home, Kristaps Porzingis is only averaging 15.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per game after averaging 20.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in the regular season.
The neck strain is reportedly doing better for Doncic heading into Game 5, but we have to see if he can still perform at a high level or not. Without him doing so, Dallas is a fairly pedestrian team coming off its worst shooting performance of the season (34.8% from the field). Health is really the most important thing in this game as it was just two games ago that Dallas shot a season-best 58.5% from the field when Doncic was fine. Now everything, including the NBA lines seem stacked against the Mavericks in this series.
This is only the seventh best-of-seven series in NBA history where the road team won the first four games. I think we see that streak end with a home victory here.
In NBA history, the Game 5 home team in a 2-2 series is 142-50 (.740). With Doncic’s health a question mark and the strong play of Leonard, I am going to trust the Clippers to cover for my NBA picks.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.