The early part of the 2020-21 NBA season has been loaded with marquee matchups between some of the most high-profile teams in the league.
That trend continues today as the 0-2 Dallas Mavericks visit the 2-0 Los Angeles Clippers (3:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBA TV). As their records suggest, these two teams are off to very different starts to their seasons. The Mavericks have looked sluggish and physically outmatched in losses to the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers, while the Clippers’ retooled roster has figured things out quickly in victories over the powerhouse Lakers and Denver Nuggets.
The Mavs will be without star big man Kristaps Porzingis in this contest, while Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard’s status is in doubt due to a jaw laceration. How will this contest shake out? Let’s talk about it before giving USA Betting’s Mavs vs Clippers predictions and final picks.
Will Ivica Zubac Be More Aggressive as a Rebounder?
Clippers center Ivica Zubac is one of the more underrated players in the NBA. He started 70 games for Los Angeles last season and provided efficient low-post scoring, respectable free-throw shooting, solid rim protection and excellent rebounding.
The addition of Serge Ibaka has moved Zubac to a key role off the bench. Even so, we’ve seen all the same good things from Zubac this season except for the rebounding. His rebounds per 36 minutes number has decreased from 14.7 to just 4.7 from a year ago. That’s an issue, because his counting stats should theoretically increase from playing more against bench units.
A matchup against the physically challenged Mavericks is a great opportunity for Zubac to get back on track from a rebounding perspective. Dallas has been significantly outrebounded in both of its games (57-46 versus Phoenix and 61-34 versus the Lakers) and doesn’t have much size, physical strength or explosiveness to keep pace on the boards without the 7’3” Porzingis.
If Zubac controls the glass to the tune of at least seven or eight rebounds, he’ll make things very difficult for Dallas.
Will Mavs Empower More On-Ball Playmakers?
The Mavs have gone from one of the most aesthetically pleasing offenses in the NBA last season to an offense where the ball sticks and doesn’t make the defense work so far this season. Dallas is last in the NBA in both assists per game (18.5) and potential assists per game (39) so far in 2020-21. That low potential assists number shows you that the low assists numbers are not just due to poor shooting luck.
Dallas understandably wants the ball in Luka Doncic’s hands a lot and he is leading the NBA in time of possession per game (9.0 minutes). However, no one else in the team’s top seven minute-getters are in the top 100 of that statistic, and none of those players are averaging more than 1.5 assists per game, either.
Doncic is great, but offenses need variety, and he’s also not in good enough shape right now to handle such a massive load. Dallas needs to find a way to sprinkle in more on-ball reps for the likes of Josh Richardson, Jalen Brunson, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and James Johnson.
Will Paul George Stay Hot From Three-Point Range?
One key storyline from last season’s playoffs was the struggles of Paul George. The Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the underdog Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals, and they even struggled as a heavy favorite to beat the Mavericks in the round prior. George’s three-point shooting was an issue, especially against Dallas, when he knocked down only 14 out of 51 (27.5 percent) of his shots from downtown.
George has been a streaky shooter for a while now. Not surprisingly, his squads do a lot better when he’s confidently hoisting up threes and making them. Dating back to the beginning of the 2019-20 season, the Clippers have a 13-2 record when George makes at least five three-pointers, but just a 6-7 record when he makes one or fewer shots from downtown. When he makes between two and four trifectas, the Clips are 24-11.
PG-13 has been on target thus far this season, making 10 of his 17 shots from downtown in two games. Without Kristaps Porzingis in the middle to protect the rim, Dallas’ three-point defense is weaker because the rest of the squad has to pack the paint to compensate for his absence. Will George take advantage with more hot shooting?
Our Betting Preview’s Mavs vs LA Clippers Predictions & Picks
Dallas has a lot to figure out, while Los Angeles seems to be in midseason form already. The Mavs sorely need Porzingis for this matchup to bridge the talent gap, because Doncic is not in good enough shape to carry the offense efficiently.
I predict that this game will be played more in the half court and that the Clippers’ defense and rebounding will really give Dallas fits. So here are the Mavericks vs LA Clippers predictions for USA Betting’s NBA game preview:
- Los Angeles is favored by several points with all betting outlets. The obviously better option, in my opinion, is betting on the Clippers -5pts on the spread @ -110 with Bovada or BetOnline
- Sportsbooks are putting the over/under for this game around 230 total points, which seems high considering the way the Mavericks’ offense is struggling right now and the fact that this game has an early afternoon tipoff. Even if Leonard is out, the Clippers have the defenders to tire out Doncic and make him play slower on offense. You should bet the under 230pts @ -110, again with either Bovada or BetOnline.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.