Mavericks host Clippers with plenty in reserve

Two of the hottest teams in the Western Conference clash when the Los Angeles Clippers visit the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, and both can point to their bench players as a major factor in their early success.

The Clippers have won nine of 10 while moving to the top of the conference, and two of their top four scorers — reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell — have come off the bench in all 21 games in coach Doc Rivers’ deep and talented rotation.

Dallas has won seven of nine and its last six at the American Airlines Center, where their murderer’s row of victims has included Oklahoma City, Utah, Golden State and Boston.

The Mavericks are getting about 50 bench points per game, with veterans J.J. Barea and Devin Harris providing huge lifts.

Barea is averaging 10.8 points and 6.0 assists in less than 20 minutes per game, and Harris scored 47 points in 50 minutes in his previous three games before being held to four in a 113-104 loss at the Lakers on Friday.

The Mavericks’ current streak has coincided with Harris’ return from a hamstring injury Nov. 10, when they beat Oklahoma City at home.

Harris had 20 points, four assists and two blocked shots in a 128-108 blowout of Houston on Wednesday as he gradually returns to full strength after missing 10 games. The Mavs’ reserves had 61 points against Houston.

“We’re just improving,” Harris told reporters recently.

“Obviously we’ve got a long way to go. Defensively I think we’re playing better. Offensively, I think there’s still room for improvement. We’re trending in the up direction. We got off to a slow start but now we’re starting to play catch up.

“I’m a downhill player. So when you see me getting there (the basket) and getting to the free throw line, it lets me know I’m getting back to being who I need to be.”

The Clippers have won six of the last nine and 15 of the last 22 regular-season meetings with the Mavs, who have not won a season series since 2010-11, when they won all four games.

This will be the first of four meetings this season, and the first time Dallas center DeAndre Jordan will face the Clippers since signing with the Mavs in the offseason.

“I’m sure it’ll be weird, playing against, seeing that Clippers jersey,” Jordan told the Los Angeles Times.

“I was there for 10 years, man, a very long time. I have great feelings about the team and Doc and the time I had there. I had a lot of my firsts there. Everything. Playoff runs. All-NBA team. All of that stuff. It’s definitely something that’s special.”

Jordan is averaging 11.3 points and 13.2 rebounds.

The Clippers have replaced Jordan with a tandem of Marcin Gortat and Boban Marjanovic and have benefitted from return to health by Danilo Gallinari and Patrick Beverley, the continued improvement of Tobias Harris and the draft acquisition of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Rivers has the ability to attack in waves. The Clippers are averaging 117.5 points, fourth in the league, and have been held to fewer than 100 only once, when they scored 98 in a season-opening loss to Denver.

Rivers pointed to the teams’ depth after a 133-121 victory at Sacramento on Thursday. The Kings were within five points wth six minutes remaining before the Clippers went on a 15-5 to effectively put the game away.

“It’s one of those games where a lot of teams fold, but we didn’t,” Rivers said. “Every time they made a run either Tobias or (Gallilnari) or ‘Trez’ made a big play. That’s what type of team we have. That’s why we’re so good.”

Gallinari, who played only 21 games in an injury-plagued 2017-18, is averaging 18.9 points. Harris, the key component received from Detroit in the Blake Griffin trade last February, is averaging a team-high 21.7 points and 8.9 rebounds. Williams is scoring 17.6 points and Harrell is averaging 16.3 points and 7.2 rebonds.

Williams has scored 10 or more points in 63 consecutive games coming off the bench, the longest stretch by a reserve since 1983-84.