They have basically all but locked themselves into the No. 4 position in the Western post-season standings. LA Coach Doc Rivers probably won’y play his stars, like he didn’t play his four starters (Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick) in the 102-99 win in Utah on Friday.
But then again, for pride’s sake, they all could be in action against the Dallas Mavericks to get playoff ready.
The Mavericks have a pretty good idea about how dangerous Paul, Griffin and Jordan are, but it’s Redick wh has scored often against them. He had 22 points in 26 minutes when the Clips won at Dallas early last month. Many believe he one of the best catch-and-shoot guys in the league and he will be ready to play his best against their Western rivals.
The Clippers have won four in a row and eight of nine games, despite having sit out periodically their key players. Griffin is back in the flow after missing nearly three months with a hand injury caused by the controversial punch he made on someone in the coaching staff. With that drama over, they still have other issues to resilve like their poor rebounding, they are minus-4.6 per game, despite having the second-best rebounder in the league in Jordan.
The Mavericks also have some key injuries, listing J.J. Barea out with a right groin strain, and Deron Williams who has a sports hernia is listed as questionable. Even though they are three games above .500, they still have a negative point differential, allowing 102.9 points and scoring 102.6. Their star, Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 23 points and 8 rebounds in the three meetings they have had with the Clips this season, so he’ll need to keep those numbers up to win.
Barea averaged 25.8 points over the previous four games, but he left midway through the first quarter of the last, with a right groin strain. His status is doubtful for this matchup.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle probably is wishing he had Doc Rivers’ luxury of resting key players since LA is locked into their playoff spot, but unfortunately for them the Mavs will be obviously shorthanded and so will have to play hard if they want to solidify a post season berth.
It’s not clear whch players will be on the floor for either team on Sunday as Dallas will looks to finish up a 15th playoff appearance in 16 seasons against the Clippers at Staples Center. The Mavericks who are 41-38 are in rough shape with the playoffs approaching since Chandler Parsons is out for the season after right knee surgery too.
But recently, despite the holes they’ve overcome them to win a season-high six straight games, with 37-year-old Nowitzki playing in 28 of the last 29. He scored 21 points in Friday’s 103-93 victory over Memphis which has helped Dallas come to within a victory of securing a playoff berth. Otherwise they have to rely on Houston to lose, and that looks unlikely since the Rockets host the lowly Lakers at the same time Sunday.
“We are going to figure it out,” Carlisle said. “That’s all I can tell you. When you lose guys, you lose versatility. We are going to have to be resourceful.”
Raymond Felton stepped up in Barea’s absence and posted 11 points and a season-high 14 assists, and rookie Justin Anderson scored a career-high 19 with 10 rebounds. That input definitely helped. Felton will get the start against the Clippers who are 51-28, if Barea can’t play. Williams likely will sit out the final three games in hopes of being healthy for the playoffs.
“My shots weren’t necessarily falling, but at the same time I was getting into the paint, getting shots for other guys and just being aggressive,” Felton said. “Sometimes that’s all it takes.”
The Clips haven’t had it easy either, it was Jamal Crawford’s 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left in overtime that allowed Los Angeles to beat Utah 102-99 on Friday with their stars out. And additionally other supporting cast members sat out, like Wesley Johnson with plantar fasciitis and Austin Rivers also didn’t play because of a sore ankle. So if they have a healthy line up, they should be unstoppable.
Doc Rivers told media that he plans to give his players as much of a break as possible since the Clips have already secured home advantage in the first round.
Crawford finished that last game with 30 points, and Cole Aldrich had season highs of 21 points and 18 points while adding a career-high five steals. Jeff Green had 18 points, while Pablo Prigioni finished with 13, seven rebounds and seven assists as nine players dressed.
“We have all the confidence in the world with our second group,” Aldrich said. “We moved the ball and we had a bunch of guys out. We could have just said, ‘You know what? We got six guys out. Let’s just get through this one and get home.”
“We fought hard. That’s a big thing for our group – getting through those tough times.”
Can the Clippers finish strong and get through the tough time the Mavs will probably give them? Probably not if they don’t play their full lineup, and that’s doubtful. The hungrier team will most likely win this game while the Clippers cruise the season out to a smooth end.
Our Pick: Mavs over Clips, 101-96