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4 keys for the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers NBA Playoff series

The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers delivered one of the most thrilling series in the 2020 NBA Playoffs. Fortunately for basketball fans, we’ll now get a rematch with these two star-studded teams taking the court for a best-of-seven series.

Los Angeles coasted t the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, almost seeking out this matchup by losing their final games of the regular season. After last season’s playoff humiliation, the Clippers return with an improved roster and confidence that a new attitude and coach will change things.

Dallas is just as optimistic for their title hopes. They experienced bitter defeat as the No. 7 seed in the NBA bubble, losing in six games to Los Angeles. But there’s reason for confidence after this team turned an 8-13 start this season into a 34-17 stretch to grab the No. 5 seed this time around.

Related: 4 lessons the Dallas Mavericks learned from 2020 Clippers series

Let’s examine the keys that will determine which team comes out victorious in this NBA playoff rematch.

Paul George must come through for the Clippers

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Paul George tried to rally the Clippers’ locker room after the team blew a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets and dropped the Western Conference semifinals. Unsurprisingly, none of his teammates wanted to hear it. Playoff P was one of the worst players in the bubble and we saw signs of that in the series against the Mavericks.

Los Angeles can’t afford this version of George showing up again. Dallas is more experienced and it really started to regain its confidence late in the year. Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard is playing through a foot injury that kept him sidelined for 11 of the Clippers’ last 18 games. If Playoff P turns into a pumpkin, the Mavericks might take this series in five games.

Read More: 5 bold predictions for 2021 NBA playoffs

Dallas Mavericks bench must deliver

Dallas Mavericks
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

When these teams met in the playoffs last year, Dallas operated with a short bench. Both Jalen Brunson and Dwight Powell were out with season-ending injuries, limiting Rick Carlisle’s options to keep his starters rested. Depth will be key in this series that could go the distance, which could be beneficial for the Mavericks.

Read More: Why Jalen Brunson should win Sixth Man of the Year

Dallas closed out the season with a new look to its lineup, putting Luka Doncic, Dorian Finney-Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kristaps Porzingis and Dwight Powell out to start the game. If that holds for this series, the Mavericks can throw plenty of lineup rotations.

Jalen Brunson is the leader of the second unit, having averaged 12.6 points, 3.5 assists and posting a 17.19 PER this season. While he fell short of being a finalist for NBA Sixth Man of the Year, he will make an impact in this series. Beyond Brunson, Dallas will hope that Josh Richardson provides some defense and toughness. If Carlisle needs more three-point shooting, JJ Redick and Maxi Kleber step in. Keep an eye on the Mavericks’ bench to potentially swing this series.

Los Angeles Clippers matching up with Luka Doncic

Dallas Mavericks
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In his first taste of the NBA Playoffs, Doncic nearly led the Dallas Mavericks to a huge upset. He rarely left the court, averaging nearly 36 minutes per contest, and showed zero hesitation with his shot. After averaging 31 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists in the series, he kept dominating against them this season.

  • Luka Doncic stats (3 games vs. Clippers): 30.3 ppg, 11 apg, 8.3 rpg, 43.5% from the field

Doncic will draw attention from both Leonard and George, but PG might be the primary defender between the two due to Leonard’s injury. Naturally, Los Angeles will also deploy Patrick Beverley to be an instigator in an effort to frustrate Doncic and get him off his game. If Beverley can get Doncic heated and Kristaps Porzingis doesn’t step up to take pressure off, this series might end quickly.

Related: NBA defensive rankings – Updated hierarchy of all 30 teams heading into 2021-22 season

Kristaps Porzingis is the ultimate X-factor

Dallas Mavericks
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There’s plenty of discussion regarding the delicate relationship between Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. They certainly aren’t best friends, but they don’t need to be. If the Mavericks want to win, though, they need Porzingis to become the player they know he is capable of. Whether he does that or not comes down to health.

Related: NBA playoff predictions – Bracket picks & 2022 Finals champion

Porzingis only played in 43 games this season, with his knee and ankle causing him problems. The lack of consistent availability was also a problem in last year’s playoff series, in which he played 94 total minutes across three games due to an ejection and a lateral meniscus tear.

  • Kristaps Porzingis stats (2020 NBA Playoffs): 23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 52.5% shooting from the field

If the 25-year-old is healthy, the Mavericks can definitely win this series. But it’s extremely difficult to bet on that, especially since the Clippers will play him so physically. If he misses action and Dallas gets eliminated, it might be time for this duo to be broken up.

Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Clippers playoff schedule

  • Game 1: Saturday, May 22 @ 4:30 PM EST on ESPN
  • Game 2: Tuesday, May 25 @ 10:30 PM EST on NBA TV
  • Game 3: Friday, May 28 @ 9:30 PM EST on ESPN
  • Game 4: Sunday, May 30 @ 9:30 PM EST on TNT
  • Game 5*: Wednesday, June 2
  • Game 6*: Friday, June 4
  • Game 7: Sunday, June 6