Scout Warns Clippers on Mavs Star: ‘Toughest Matchup’ (& It’s Not Luka)

Kristaps Porzingis, Mavericks

Getty Kristaps Porzingis, Mavericks

Luka this. Luka that. When you’re playing a seven-game series against the Dallas Mavericks, you can expect the focus to rest squarely on No. 77. But ask around, and the guy the Clippers might need to be a bit more concerned about is actually the team’s would-be No. 2 option, big man Kristaps Porzingis.

“You know what Luka can do at his best, you know how good he is himself and how he makes everybody better,” one West scout told Heavy.com. “But what you don’t know is what they’re going to get from Porzingis, and that is almost scarier. In a way, he is the toughest matchup and they better be ready for that. I mean, they don’t know what they’re going to get from him. The way he ended the season, though, they’ve got to be positive. And if he is producing, there’s no one on that Clippers roster who matches up with him.”

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Porzingis did, indeed, produce in the final three games of the regular season, averaging 19.3 points in 27.3 minutes, shooting 51.2% from the field and 60.0% from the 3-point line. But that came after yet another injury-marred season, which began with Porzingis recovering from knee surgery to fix an injury to the meniscus in his right knee. He missed 29 of the Mavs’ 72 games in all this season, mostly with recurring soreness in the right knee.


Porzingis Suffered Knee Injury vs. Clippers in 2020

Porzingis originally suffered the injury to his right knee (he had surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee in 2018 and missed all of the following season) in Game 1 of the opening-round matchup against the Clippers last year. He and forward Marcus Morris whacked their knees against each other accidentally.

He did play in Games 2 and 3, but the team’s medical staff advised him against continuing on in Game 4. The Mavericks lost the series to the Clippers in six games.

Perhaps buoyed by his recent performance, Porzingis has been upbeat about the team’s outlook heading into this year’s playoffs.

“We are a dangerous team,” Porzingis said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “We truly believe that. We have outside shooting. We have everything we need. We have the tools. We just don’t have the experience yet.

“It’s good that we had that first taste of defeat last season, and we’re looking forward to taking a step forward in this series.”


Clippers Lacking Ideal Porzingis Matchup

The Clippers certainly have options to throw at Porzingis, and the bulk of the task could fall to Serge Ibaka, a center who is also coming off an extended injury (to his back). Ibaka missed 30 games before returning to play well in the Clippers’ final two appearances.

Ibaka has lost his starting job to Ivica Zubac, but Zubac is not quite athletic enough to chase Porzingis—a very good shooter despite standing 7-foot-3—around the perimeter. DeMarcus Cousins, too, would be too limited by his lack of speed, and the Clippers could look to small-ball options like Morris and Patrick Patterson, who would be at a huge disadvantage against Porzingis.

Last year, according to NBA stats, Zubac played the most minutes on Porzingis and gave up 50.0% shooting. If he can stay healthy, Porzingis is a matchup nightmare—and coach Rick Carlisle knows just how crucial he is to this series.

“I think the last three games of the season that he played are pretty indicative of his importance to our team,” Carlisle told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “You know, he had a great game against New Orleans, he was really good against Toronto. And we didn’t play well as a team against Minnesota a couple nights ago, but he shot the ball well, and I’m looking at how he’s moving and how he’s getting into his stance and that kind of stuff, and we see good signs. So you know, that’s a very good situation. And, you know, we’ll hope to be able to keep him going.”

 


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