Who has the edge? Clippers, Mavericks meet in Game 1 of first-round NBA playoffs

The Dallas Mavericks (50-32) will face a familiar foe when they square off with the LA Clippers (51-31) in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

The series will feature some of the NBA’s biggest stars with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving suiting up for the Mavs and James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Paul Geroge for the Clippers.

Which team has the edge?

Regular season matchups

The Mavs played the Clippers three times this season winning the first game, 144-126, on Nov. 10 thanks in part to 71 combined points from Irving and Doncic during a group-play game for the NBA In-Season Tournament.

The Mavs dropped their final two games against the Clippers, a 107-88 blowout, on Nov. 25 and a 120-111 loss on Dec. 20.

Their regular season series will do little to prepare either team as the Mavs were without Daniel Gafford or PJ Washington, key additions that helped the team surge to the No. 5 spot in the West and turned their defense around.

Injury concerns

The Mavs will see if rookie Dereck Lively is ready to play. He’s been out of action since Mar. 31 with a right knee sprain. Lively was a key contributor for the Mavs this season with his rim protection and ability to finish at the rim. The rookie center set an NBA record for the highest field goal percentage in NBA history.

The Clippers have been a team defined by injury over the past few seasons, especially to their stars. This postseason brings more of the same with Kawhi Leonard’s availability in doubt due to a right knee injury that kept him out for the final eight games of the regular season. Head coach Tyronn Lue has been cagey about when or if Leonard will be available in the series.

Star Power

Luka Doncic is fresh off an MVP-caliber season putting up 33.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 9.8 assists while shooting a career-high 38.2% on three-pointers. Doncic is as complete an offensive player that exists in the league and is more dangerous than ever with Kyrie Irving as his running mate.

Irving is one of the league’s best shooters averaging 25.6 points, 5.2 assists and five rebounds. Irving and Doncic are the top scoring duo in the NBA this season and offer the rare combo of two complete offensive players that can do

Not to be outdone the Clippers have three superstars on their roster James Harden, George and Leonard. Harden has lost as a step as a scorer but is still among the best passers in the league with 8.5 assists per game and excels at finding his teammates for three-point field goals.

Leonard is one of the best two-way players in the league with an exceptional mid-range game and has outplayed Doncic in the playoffs before though it is up in question. George is another two-way star capable of being one of the league’s best perimeter defenders and three-point shooters.


It feels strange to call a former MVP an X-Factor but that’s exactly what Russell Westbrook is for the Clippers. Westbrook moved into a bench role after Los Angeles acquired James Harden earlier in the year and has flourished off the bench. Westbrook averaged 11.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists while still being exceptional at scoring in transition.

Westbrook has also excelled defensively, opponents are shooting 43.6% against him the best mark for any Clipper who has played at least 50 games. If Westbrook can significantly slow down Irving or Doncic it could cause the Mavs offense to grind to halt.

When facing a team with the star power of the Clippers having a defensive ace is a must and that’s what Derrick Jones Jr. provides for the Mavs regularly guarding the opposing team’s best scorer. Jones Jr.’s stats won’t jump off the page, he averages 8.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists while shooting 34.8% from three, but his length, mobility and speed make him a nightmare for opposing scorers.

Jones Jr. has struggled at times from three-point range and will have to consistently hit open threes to avoid gumming up the Mavs offense.

The Mavs open their series against the Clippers at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday at Arena and will air on ABC, locally on WFAA.