Five things: Clippers crush Mavericks in overhyped matchup

The early MVP?

Earlier this week, I wrote about what would have to go right for Blake Griffin to win the MVP award. So far, so good. Griffin finished with 26 points (11 of 17 shooting), 10 rebounds and two assists on Thursday night. It’s early, but on the season, he’s already averaging 29.5 points and 9 rebounds. Griffin won’t be the MVP favorite anytime soon, but he belongs in the conversation, and has been the clear focal point of the Clippers’ offense thus far — even more so than Chris Paul.

If he keeps up this level of dominance, expect him to bulldoze his way into the top three or four candidates. "He’s been great," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "Where he’s at has been phenomenal for us."

Failing to live up to the hype

Considering how overhyped this matchup was, tonight was dud. The only noteworthy drama was Mark Cuban’s pre-game comments, which, of course, took plenty of shots at Jordan and the Clippers. But besides that — and a brief tangle-up with Jordan and Dirk Nowitzki in the second quarter that resulted in three technical fouls — this game lacked the tension that most thought it would have. The Mavericks trolled the Clippers a little bit by resorting to intentionally fouling Jordan and Josh Smith (Smith is a career 63.3 percent free throw shooter), but besides that handful of possessions, it was a relatively calm game.

Finding their way

With the exception of Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers, the Clippers’ bench struggled to get into an offensive rhythm tonight. Paul Pierce (1 of 6) and Josh Smith (1 of 5) looked out of sync, and it remains to be seen how this unit will fare against another good bench lineup. Defensively, there are concerns when facing a bigger frontcourt, but Pierce and Smith were solid on the glass (a combined 10 rebounds). Smith is the first non-DJ big man of the CP3 era who can actually protect the rim — he has just six blocks in 30 minutes this season — which means Jordan can actually rest without the defense collapsing.

Stephenson picks his spots

Lance Stephenson’s pre-game shooting routine  consisted of him going around the 3-point point arc — around-the-world style — and making a certain amount of shots at five designated locations. Those are the spots Stephenson will be getting on a game-to-game basis, and he’ll have to hit them at a much better clip than he did last season (17.1 percent). Stephenson only went 1-for-4 from beyond the arc (he was 1-for-5 overall), but keep an eye on his shooting and the way he sucks in opposing help defenders (or, more likely, doesn’t) — it will be one of the x-factors of the Clippers’ offense.

Defending the arc

There is so much variance that goes into defending the 3-point arc — a lot of it is just luck, frankly — but the Clippers did a poor job on Wednesday against the Kings, allowing Sacramento to make 11-of-24 3-pointers (45.8 percent). Though the Mavs were depleted without their three starters — Wesley Matthews is a good shooter, and Chandler Parsons and Deron Williams are decent ones — but the Clips held them to just 6-of-30 shooting (20.0 percent), actively preventing and contesting shots from deep. The Clippers don’t shoot particularly well on 3s themselves (just 25.8 percent), but they made up for it by turning the ball over only eight times.

The Clippers’ next game is Saturday when DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento come to town for a spooky Halloween matchup. Our coverage begins at 7p on Prime Ticket.