Mavericks to face new-look Clippers

LOS ANGELES — After already using their revamped roster to defeat one of the Eastern Conference’s more disappointing teams, the Los Angeles Clippers will get to try it again against one of the Western Conference’s also-rans.

The Dallas Mavericks will come to Los Angeles on Monday night to face a Clippers team no longer with Blake Griffin, but one that has added guard Avery Bradley, forward Tobias Harris and center Boban Marjanovic.

Bradley and Harris started in the Clippers’ 113-103 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday afternoon and the new-look squad looked like — well, the Clippers. Even when Griffin was in the fold, the Clippers have managed to get the best of teams in the lower half of the league’s standings, while finding issues against the upper echelon.

On Monday, the Clippers (26-25) get a Mavericks team that is among the bottom dwellers of the Western Conference.

Dallas (17-36) is coming to Staples Center having defeated another of the Western Conference’s losing teams. But their 106-99 road victory over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday merely ended a five-game losing streak.

The matchup with the Clippers gives the Mavericks the chance to show they aren’t just headed in the right direction but it can give them two road victories in the span of three days after registering only six during the first three months of the season.

What the Mavericks learned in their victory over the Kings is how important defense can be. It was nonexistent on both sides in the matchup at Sacramento, until the Mavericks decided to stop the ball late in the game.

“We’re pretty good when we hold opponents under 100 points, and they were well on their way over it,” Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said after the victory according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It was a little too easy there at times. They had it going, and finally there in the fourth we picked it up a bit and got into them a little more.”

While there are rumors the Clippers’ front office could still trade players such as center DeAndre Jordan and guard Lou Williams by Thursday’s trade deadline, the squad itself is intent on making a playoff push. They currently sit one game out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

“I feel like it was a good start for us,” Bradley said after Saturday’s win, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We’re still getting used to each other, but I feel like once we’re able to learn how to play off one another, the sky is the limit for this team.”

The Clippers have known the value of guard defense all season. They constructed a roster of defensive-minded guards Patrick Beverley and Austin Rivers to open the season, but Beverley is lost for the season after knee surgery and Rivers has missed over a month with an ankle injury. He won’t be back Monday, but could be back by the end of the week if all goes well.

In Bradley, they now have another guard that can get after it on defense. At least they could have a defensive-minded backcourt again by the All-Star break. What they won’t have is Griffin, although Harris was solid in his Clippers debut Saturday, scoring 24 points.

“We’ve got to get through this next game and then at least we have a couple of more days to practice,” Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said of Monday’s matchup with the Mavericks, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Those practices will be really important, because after watching them two games in, we can kind of get a feel on what to do.”

After Monday, the Clippers play the next six games on the road. The journey starts Friday at Detroit in a reunion with Griffin. They can’t overlook the Mavericks first.