What the Mavericks figured was inevitable now is official.

They will play the powerful Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.

The Clippers downed Denver late Wednesday night to clinch the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. The Mavericks had been locked into the No. 7 seed after losing to Portland on Tuesday.

It is not certain whether the best-of-seven series will start on Monday or Tuesday. But since the No. 1-seeded Los Angeles Lakers will have to wait to see who wins the play-in tournament, it has been speculated that the Mavericks-Clippers series would begin on Monday. But nothing is definite yet.

The prevailing theory is that facing the Clippers is a bad matchup for the Mavericks and, indeed, they have lost all three meetings this season by an average of 11 points.

But a closer inspection of the two teams suggests the Mavericks have the right recipe of players to compete with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams and company.

They have enough big men – Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, Boban Marjanović – to combat the Clippers’ physical style led by Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green and, perhaps, Joakim Noah.

They also have the sort of defensive players – Dorian Finney-Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Delon Wright – who can at least bother Leonard and George.

And, of course, the Clippers will have to deal with Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Dončić. And the Clippers did a decent job of that during the three regular-season meetings. Porzingis averaged 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds against the Clippers. Dončić averaged 29 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.

But what the series could hinge on as much as anything is health.

The Clippers were without starting point guard Patrick Beverley and key reserve big man Montrezl Harrell for virtually all of their games in the bubble. Without them, the Clippers strong depth is significantly compromised.

The Mavericks, meanwhile, lost much of their depth before the season was suspended when Jalen Brunson and Dwight Powell suffered season-ending injuries.

“I think that’s going to be a fun matchup and a tough matchup for us,” Porzingis said earlier this week. “But it’s a tough matchup for everybody. We want to go out there and play our best basketball so far, put all the little things together and make some noise. That’s our goal.”

Twitter: @ESefko


Tale of the tape

Mavericks       Category      Clippers

0-3                   Record            3-0

105.7                Points            116.7

42.0                  FG %             44.4

31.0                  3FG %           36.3

44.0                 Rebounds       52.7

13.0                  TOs                 10.0


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