NBA Basketball

Clippers still thinking playoffs as Mavs stumble in

No 20-point lead seems safe these days when the Los Angeles Clippers are on the court, and that includes leads they might be holding, as well as chasing.

When the Clippers take the court Monday night against the visiting Dallas Mavericks, they will be coming off four recent games that included major swings of momentum.

Three times while on a lengthy road trip earlier this month, the Clippers found themselves in a 20-point hole, only to emerge victorious. On Feb. 9 at Boston, the Clippers erased a 28-point deficit to earn a 123-112 victory, the largest comeback in franchise history.

Then on Friday at Memphis, they failed to preserve a 22-point lead of their own, but managed to scramble back for a 112-106 victory.

Another opportunity from a 20-point deficit presented itself Sunday at Denver, but the Nuggets had more than enough in reserve to put away a 123-96 victory. The Clippers were just 3-of-21 from 3-point range, an uncharacteristic performance from a team that is third in the league at 38.2 percent from long range despite Sunday's poor showing.

These kind of pendulum swings were happening before leading scorer Tobias Harris was traded, along with Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott, and they continued to happen with newcomers to the roster like Ivica Zubac, Landry Shamet, JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple.

The common denominator through it all is backup guard and scoring machine Lou Williams, who averages a league-leading 19.8 points per game off the bench and 7.9 in the fourth quarter, fourth best in the league.

The Clippers sit at the tail end of playoff-qualified teams in the Western Conference and continue to emphasize making the playoffs, even after trading Harris, and even with all the roster maneuvering.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said on a recent appearance on TNT that the team remains interested in the playoffs over building for the future through the draft, and the players echoed that sentiment this weekend.

"The team is a very good team," forward Danilo Gallinari said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We got some new guys who can really play and we really want to win and go to the playoffs. That goal doesn't change."

The Mavericks have new guys, too, but their slim playoff chances were all but dashed during a recent flurry of trade activity. Starters like Harrison Barnes, DeAndre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr. and Wesley Matthews all were traded.

The team will build around the dynamic young talents of Luka Doncic, but he has missed the past two games with a sore right ankle. The Mavericks have lost both of those games, and the two before that as well. The Mavericks are 1-5 since the trade deadline.

"We've sort of re-tooled a little bit based on this group," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said, according to "And the last 2 1/2 weeks, we scaled down some things and got our defensive system in. The personnel is quite different, so there are some different challenges. But we have good guys that go hard and they're pros, so that's a great starting point."

Veteran Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 15 points in 24 minutes for the Mavericks on Saturday at Utah in his first start of the season.

While Doncic is listed as questionable for Monday in Los Angeles, Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber is day-to-day with an illness. For the Clippers, new acquisition Wilson Chandler (quadriceps) is close to making his debut with the team.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 25, 2019

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