Dallas at L.A. Clippers
Time: 9:30 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: LAC -11.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Dallas Mavericks are eliminated from playoff contention, but the Los Angeles Clippers are in a battle for playoff positioning and heavy favorites in this game, hosting Dallas as 11.5-point favorites in the second-half of an ESPN Wednesday night double header. Chris Paul and the Clippers may be making their final tour as we have seen this iteration of Clippers’ basketball, with CP3 and Blake Griffin both due to hit free agency this summer.
L.A. is currently seeded No. 5 in the West, but it trails No. 4 Utah by jus one game and maintains just a 2.5 game lead on No. 6 Oklahoma City. As winners of seven of its past 10, the Clips certainly need another ‘W’ tonight.
The Clippers have won three-straight, with victories over the Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns and L.A. Lakers. The Suns and Lakers are both tanking, but the 133-124 win over Washington was a good statement win given that L.A. had come in as losers of two of its previous three.
It is now about getting hot at the right time, and all indications are that such is happening for the Clippers. Its defense has been mediocre, but the Clippers have scored 124 points per game over its win streak while allowing 115 points per game. Over the season, the Clippers have allowed 104.9 points per game, while scoring 108.5. With the pace of the games about to slow down as the postseason begins, the Clippers will need to tighten up its defense. It will also need to play better on the road. The Clips are 21-19 on the road this season but may begin the playoffs without homecourt advantage, which renders that weakness in the spotlight.
Granted, having a veteran point guard like Chris Paul goes a long way in the playoffs, but it would be heavy to L.A.’s advantage to find a way to surge past the Jazz in the standings. Utah has won just five of its past 10, so the Jazz is cooling as L.A. is heating up, but with just four games on the Jazz’ slate remaining and the same for L.A., it will require the Clips likely going 4-0 with a couple Utah losses for it to happen. That is a tough wager to make at this point because Utah has put together a fine season and center Rudy Gobert gives them the toughest defense in the NBA. The Clips are loaded offensively, and Utah is defensively.
It could make for a very entertaining 4/5 matchup between two teams with very different strengths. But for the time being, L.A. must take care of the Mavericks tonight.
Dallas did put together a good run in trying to make the postseason after starting the season in disarray. Dirk Nowitzki missed the first stretch of the 2016-17 season, and after that, he took a while to round into any form resemblant of the dominant Dirk we have seen over the past 19 seasons. Nowitzki is now the No. 6 all-time NBA scorer and is a lock to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but his presence also leaves Dallas in a strange place in trying to rebuild its roster.
The Mavericks did make a nice signing in bringing aboard former Golden State Warrior Harrison Barnes, and acquiring Nerlens Noel at the trade deadline was also a nice move because it could solidify Dallas’ future frontcourt. But the present requires giving Nowitzki ample minutes, as the legend winds down his career and keeps Dallas winning just a bit too much to really snag a high lottery pick. Perhaps the Mavericks will not even need a top pick, but Dallas is caught in some form of limbo right now, howsoever it is looked at.
The Mavericks have the fifth-worst record in the West, and the ninth-worst overall, so it will require some prudent drafting to add a major player or star at that position, but it is not inconceivable. After all, Dirk himself was once a late lottery pick.