There was a point last season in the bubble where the Clippers were on the ropes in the first round of their first-round series against Dallas. Doncic hit a game-winning 3-pointer in Game 4 to even the series 2-2. L.A. won the next two games 154-111 and 111-97 to advance, but the fact they were as competitive as they were and are now a year older and wiser means the Mavs will come into Staples Center confident that they can do some damage.
Dallas won this season’s series 2-1 too, led by Doncic averaging 30.3 points and 11.0 assists while shooting nearly 48 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3-point range over this season’s three games. Although L.A. stars played, neither was especially dominant. Leonard averaged 21.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists while Paul George shot just 37.3 percent in averaging 19.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
The fact the Clippers targeted this series while avoiding the Lakers by resting players and losing to brutal Houston and Oklahoma City could be perceived as a slight too, fueling the Mavs’ fire. The teams haven’t seen one another since March 17, so Dallas will see new faces in reinforcements Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins, both of whom will come off L.A.’s bench. The fact the Clippers have so many weapons when you mix in the likes of Marcus Morris, Sr., Nicolas Batum, Reggie Jackson, and shooter Luke Kennard in the rotation will make it difficult for Kristaps Porzingis to stay on the floor for lengthy stretches since he tends to be a defensive liability.
Expect “Playoff” Rondo to make an appearance and help the Clippers advance, but we see little value in laying as much as -430 (FanDuel) in riding an L.A. series win. The number is -400 at BetRivers and DraftKings and offers the best value at BetMGM (-375). A better bet might be to ride Doncic to be the series’ leading scorer (-135, BetMGM), which looks to be a solid option given that his usage rate is so high and the Clippers have significantly more depth, making it more likely they’ll share the wealth.