Mavericks’ Jordan returns to L.A. to face Clippers

LOS ANGELES — If Dallas Mavericks big man DeAndre Jordan was able to collect a season-best 23 rebounds the first time he faced his former team this season, there is no telling what he might do when he sets foot on the court where he used to dominate.

Jordan will get his first opportunity to face the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on Thursday since he signed with the Mavericks as a free agent this past offseason. In the first meeting at Dallas on Dec. 2, the Mavs came away with a 114-10 victory.

A vital cog in the Clippers’ former “Lob City” era, Jordan was the final member of the Clippers’ highlight-reel trio to leave, following Chris Paul’s trade to the Houston Rockets and Blake Griffin’s trade to the Detroit Pistons.

In place of star power, the Clippers (17-13) have been getting it done this season with a deeper roster of contributors and a willingness to venture a little further away from the rim.

While the Clippers might be 28th in the NBA in 3-point attempts per game (25.2), they are fourth in 3-point percentage (37.3). The Clippers are also ninth in overall field goal percentage at 46.8.

Jordan knows something about being efficient offensively. Not much of a shooter, even from mid-range, Jordan knows his limitations, sticking to shots around the basket, while posting a 62.1 field goal percentage, sixth best in the NBA.

Jordan’s 11.0 points per game are above his career mark of 9.5. And his 13.8 rebounds per game are exactly what he did with the Clippers in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, but slightly below his career-best 15.2 mark during his final season in Los Angeles last year.

“(Jordan) is one of the best rebounders in the land,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said at practice Wednesday. “We know there are some things you have to do with D.J. to at least try to keep him off the glass. He’s tough.”

Rivers has been satisfied with the Clippers’ offense, even without guard Lou Williams for the past four games because of a hamstring issue. It’s rebounding and especially defense where the veteran coach says his team needs work. The Clippers enter Thursday’s game having lost four consecutive games and six of the last seven.

The much-improved Mavericks (15-14) are on a mini-slide of their own, having dropped three consecutive games. Before that hiccup, the Mavericks had won five of six, a run that started with that Dec. 2 victory over the Clippers.

“I’m not worried,” Jordan said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “We had a losing streak early in the season and then won (a bunch) of games. That’s the way the league is. I don’t think this is the time to panic. You got to be realistic. You’re not going to play great every night. And you’re going to come out some nights and play great and still lose. That’s just the way the NBA is.”

Thursday night’s game at Los Angeles is the second of a four-game trip for the Mavericks, who lost 126-118 at Denver on Tuesday when they were outrebounded 55-42. The Mavs also will travel to Golden State and Portland before returning home.

The Clippers are still expected to be without Williams on Thursday, but he is getting close to a return. Also getting close to coming back is forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who has been out since October with a knee issue.

Day-to-day for the Mavericks are forward Maxi Kleber (toe) and guard Dennis Smith Jr. (wrist).