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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks
Friday, June 4, 2021 at 9 p.m. ET (TNT) at American Airlines Center in Dallas

What Happened In Game 5: The Third Quarter

After losing 105-100 on Wednesday, to go down 3-2 in the series, the Clippers are being written off by many bettors.

In order to assess whether we should write the Clippers off for Game 6, we should consider why they lost Game 5.

If it seems likely that the cause of their demise in Game 5 will again be present in Game 6, then we should bet on Dallas.

With 3:47 left in the third quarter, the Clippers were winning 75-73. The game was effectively decided in those remaining 3:47 when Paul George committed his fourth foul and had to be subbed out of the game.

After George went to the bench, the Mavericks outscored L.A. 16-0 to close out the third quarter with an 89-75 lead.

When George was out, Kawhi Leonard was ineffective. Both Reggie Jackson and Rajon Rondo failed to convert three-point attempts.

Despite that catastrophic conclusion to the third quarter, the Clippers still almost won. They outscored Dallas 25-16, failing to convert a mere layup attempt to take the lead with just over eight seconds to play.

For all of the criticism that George — also sardonically known as “Playoff Paul” — has received, he is undoubtably a veteran who has a lot of playoff experience.

It’s reasonable to expect him to avoid foul trouble in Game 6 just like he had avoided foul trouble throughout the series.

His presence on the court gives Dallas a second major offensive weapon to worry about in addition to Kawhi.

George also helps secure the defense, which couldn’t stop the Mavericks from attacking at will in those final 3:47.

What Happened In Game 5: Tactics

Early in the game, Dallas showcased a tactical maneuver that helped procure it a seven-point lead after the first quarter.

Defensively, Dallas employed a 2-1-2 zone defense with two bigs, Kristaps Porzingis and Boban Marjanovic, patrolling the rim.

In addition to increasing their defensive presence around the basket, they attacked Kawhi with double teams inside and tried to likewise close PG’s space inside.

Their defensive scheme deterred the Clippers from driving inside and compelled the Clippers to attempt more three-pointers.

Throughout the series, L.A. had been relying on its ability to drive inside. So Rick Carlisle made a very smart adjustment for Dallas.

I’m sure that Tyronn Lue will make adjustments for the Clippers. And it’s anyone’s guess — Carlisle’s as well — as to what those adjustments will be.

But it’s important to point out that Carlisle’s smart adjustment should have backfired.

Largely thanks to Carlisle’s adjustment, the Clippers amassed 19 open three-point attempts, four more than any other team attempted on that day (June 2).

Unfortunately for them, they converted only 26.3 percent of them. This conversion rate is also unfortunate in a statistical sense.

During the regular season, Los Angeles converted open three-pointers at the NBA’s highest rate — at 40.9 percent.

Team Improvements in Game 6

Expect statistical progression from the Clippers in Game 6. They will convert more open three-pointers, just like they’ve been doing all year.

Mostly because of their ability to generate and convert propitious three-point shooting opportunities, they ranked sixth in the NBA in the regular season in three-pointers made per game.

Kawhi is, by far, not the only player whom the Clippers can rely on from behind the arc, although he’ll still get good looks from deep if Dallas confines its willingness to double team him to the interior.

Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson, and Paul George are three examples of other Clipper players who shot from over 40 percent from deep during the regular season.

As for what kind of adjustments L.A. can make against a Maverick zone, note that the Clippers were one of the most efficient teams during the regular season in the 5-19 foot range.

So in addition to attempting more threes, they can pull up for more mid-range jumpers in order to punish Dallas’ zone defense.

Side Verdict

Despite contradictory instances, teams by and large do not change who they’ve been all season. Dallas is a bad defensive team.

Dallas ranked 13 spots behind L.A. in terms of defensive rating. The Mavericks characteristically allow a lot of open threes and they regularly struggle to limit opposing efficiency in the interior.

The Clipper defense, with George out of foul trouble, did a great job limiting Dallas to 105 points. It’s limited the Mavs to 108 points or fewer in three straight games.

108 is a total that the Clippers easily possess the firepower to surpass.

Total Verdict

With a surge in open three-point conversion rate, which should open up the interior even more, I imagine L.A. again reaching the 120s.

The Clippers still do not have an answer for superstar Luka Doncic, who amassed 42 points last game, showing that he is healthy enough to dominate, as he regularly scores 30+ points against the Clippers.

We don’t need too much support for Doncic for the “over” to hit. One guy I expect to bounce back is Tim Hardaway Jr.

He still has the confidence to attempt a lot of threes and he should attempt a lot of threes because he’s a guy who can easily knock down six of them in a game.

Given more just from him, Dallas definitely hits 110, five more than it scored last game.

I have, approximately, a 120-110 Clipper victory in mind. So I recommend betting the Clippers ML and the “over.”

Best Bet: Parlay Clippers ML at -140 & Over 216 at -108 at +262 with Heritage
 

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