Clippers at Mavs
Due to the Hawks, Sixers, and Jazz all closing out their first round series’ in a tidy five games, we’re left with just one game for Friday evening, and it’s a doozy.
We could try to get into the X’s and O’s, but this series has really come down to the brilliance of Luka Doncic. He has absolutely obliterated everyone in his path outside of Kawhi Leonard, and that’s the big issue. Doncic is averaging 35/8/9.4 on .563 eFG%. Even when Leonard is matched up on Doncic, the Clippers are far too willing to switch any screening action, especially when Ivica Zubac is involved.
The Clippers natural response to this has been to downsize, which does cause real problems for the Mavericks. They don’t have a good lineup to matchup with the Clippers when they go small, with their main adjustment being inserting Boban Marjanovic into the game to try to pummel LAC inside. That’s worked in doses, but doesn’t figure to be sustainable.
So, what it looks like it’ll come down to is the stars. Can Luka continue to play at this level? Conventional wisdom would tell you this is not sustainable, but he looks the part of possibly the best offensive player in the league, and he’s torched the Clippers and their fearsome group of wing defenders for two consecutive playoffs now. The sample size of Doncic in the playoffs is getting larger, and he only gets more impressive as each game passes. The Clippers need the Defensive Player of the Year version of Kawhi Leonard to show up much more than they need him offensively.
Can Paul George and Kawhi rise to the occasion? They sure did in Games 3 & 4, but now they have to do it again, and there’s no doubt that the internet will be rooting against them and ready to jump on them at a moment’s notice. I would be absolutely shocked if they didn’t show up, but it’s hard to pick against Luka at this point.
Lastly, can a home team win a game this series? Through five games, the road team has won every game. In theory, your role players shoot better at home, which would favor Dallas on Friday night, but this series has made little sense in that regard. Of all the series, this is the Game 7 I want to see most badly, but I don’t think we’re going to get it.
Official prediction: Mavs 113, Clippers 108