The two sweetest words in sports: game seven. Round one of the 2021 NBA Playoffs has just one game remaining as the Dallas Mavericks face the Los Angeles Clippers in a do-or-die game seven today to determine which team will advance to the Western Conference semis (3:30pm ET Sunday; TV: Live on ABC).
It was a battle of the stars in game six as Luka Doncic and the Mavs failed to close out Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers. It was the playoff that tested Leonard, who put his team on his back, doing everything to keep the Clippers chances alive. It was the kind of superstar performance you’d expect from a former NBA champ of Leonard’s caliber. It was once in a lifetime but unfortunately for Leonard, he’ll need to do it twice if the Clippers have any shot at advancing.
Early round playoff exits and underperforming expectations have become staples of Clipper playoff runs, something Leonard signed there to stop. Look no further than the 3-1 lead LA blew last year, dropping the series’ final three games to the Denver Nuggets. It was a devastating but unsurprising outcome for anyone following Clippers basketball since the team started to begin their climb out of the Lakers’ shadow.
Leonard has a chance to keep that train running today so long as Doncic’s Mavs don’t eliminate LA’s last remaining team from the postseason. While the young star failed to close out the Clippers in game six, there is something to be said about the experience gained and confidence built. The Mavericks failed to get rid of LA once, but they know they can’t make that same mistake twice. Because if they do, Dallas will be spending the rest of the playoffs at home as LA moves on to take on the Phoenix Suns.
So it all comes down to this. Game seven on the Staples Center court. It’s a court that has hosted no shortage of iconic games, most of which belong to the LA Lakers. Now, here the Clippers stand with a chance to have their own Staples Center iconic moment. Here the Mavericks stand, looking to shatter those dreams of the Clippers journey to hang one of their own championship banners in those hallowed rafters. In 2019, Leonard, then with the Toronto Raptors, led his team past the Philadelphia 76ers in game seven with a shot that bounced off the rim four times before settling as a game winning buzzer beater through the net. The Raptors went on to win the series. Might Leonard repeat history on Sunday? Let’s use this preview to break down this final game and reach some meaningful predictions and betting picks.
Bucking the Trends
Big players perform in big moments and Leonard is no stranger to big moments. While the dueling stats of Leonard vs Doncic have been a series highlight, one of the other major stories has been just how well these teams have performed on the road. Historically, home teams win game seven 70 percent of the time. That’s a lofty mark that favors the Clippers for sure. At least it would favor the Clippers if they had won a single game at home this postseason. This series has seen the road team win every single game, which is an NBA record. Fans are back on courts and Staples Center should be as packed as it can be today. If LA can feed on that, they have got a great chance to win this series’ first home game.
Three-Point Shooting Can be Mavs Blessing Or Curse
Everything was going well for Dallas in their close out game six. Leonard was getting his and in many ways dominating the game, but it was the Mavs who had the late third quarter lead. Then, as it so often does in basketball, LA went on a run. Or more accurately, Dallas stopped running. The Mavericks went stone cold with their offense absolutely sputtering. Dallas shot just 11-of-36 to finish the game with their three point shot in particular, failing to fall. Doncic was just 2-of-9 from beyond the arc, an uncharacteristic mark for him. As Doncic and his teammates went through the rough scoring drought, Leonard iced things, taking over the game with a scoring outburst of his own.
Dallas has been a strong three-point shooting team but that failed to show in game six. After successfully hitting on over 50 percent of their threes early on this series, Dallas converted just over 32 percent in game six. At times, that shot simply wasn’t going down, even though the opportunity remained for the Mavericks to keep attempting it.
Dallas, as well as LA for that matter, depend on their solid perimeter shooting and the Mavs fell short on theirs in game six. The game seven winner could be down to who is the more accurate sharpshooting team today. Dallas needs to be better than they were. That starts at the top with Doncic, though Dallas’ struggles went beyond their star. The entire team were outperformed from three. They can’t afford to lose that battle in game seven.
Can Leonard Break LA’s Curse?
For some reason, the Clippers haven’t been able to shine in the game’s biggest moments. Time and again, coach after coach, star player after star player, the Clippers have managed to see almost all of their recent playoff runs end in underwhelming fashion. In 2021, those ghosts of the past no doubt still linger. The Clippers have to find a way to stave off those demons and they have to do it now. The Western Conference may not favor the Clippers in the end but one thing is true that hasn’t been lately. With the Lakers first round exit, the Clippers have a chance to be LA’s top squad. They’ll have the city’s full fandom in a way they normally don’t. Of course, that alone won’t win them a title but it certainly could help. As could the man who traveled from Toronto to LA to do exactly that, put the Clippers back on the map.
In game six, Leonard did exactly that. He was as advertised, nearly outscoring Dallas’ entire offense in the fourth quarter and beyond. He was lethal and didn’t miss a single shot attempt to close out the game. He put the Clippers on his back and certainly did so in memorable fashion. Leonard’s 45 points were what you’d expect from a star in an elimination game and it was much needed as his game five numbers left plenty to be desired.
Leonard couldn’t buy a bucket in game five but in game six, it was like he couldn’t miss. More than that though, Leonard also put his defensive prowess on full display, guarding and limiting Doncic’s own impact on the game. It is likely these two will find themselves at odds again as Leonard should be tasked with guarding Dallas’ best player once again in game seven. Leonard is a great two-way player and he has shown that the candle can burn bright at both ends.
Mavs vs LA Clippers Game 7 Betting Predictions Verdict & Picks for this NBA Preview
In some ways, one could argue that even with a loss in game seven, the Clippers performed admirably. After all, the team was down 0-2 in this series and managed to come back to force a game seven. While a loss would still sting, most teams could probably find a silver lining. Most teams aren’t the Clippers, who have been down this road one too many times before. The Clippers need to save this series because otherwise, it is just one more disappointing postseason run to add to the ledger.
LA enters this game favored -6.5 points with the top-rated offshore bookies, a somewhat lofty margin given no home team has won a game yet this series. It also seems high given the unpredictability that games sevens normally bring. These two teams are pretty evenly matched so expect game seven to be that kind of knock down, drag out affair that really emphasizes strengths over weaknesses. These two teams are so familiar with each other by now that both coaches have had ample chance to make adjustments. So expect a fight, one where both teams will have their chances to advance to the next round.
What about our predictions? These teams have played each other tight for most of this series so we’re backing Dallas and the points here. Plus, game sevens tend to be close in nature anyway and we’re looking to the same outcome here.
- Bet on the Mavs +6.5pts @ -110 with BetOnline or Intertops. They are +6pts with Bovada and Bookmaker.
- Look for a low total too as these two teams have played a slower paced game this series with many scoring performances falling under the set total. Go under 210 total points @ -110 with Bovada or Intertops.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.