Mavericks vs Clippers Game 1 Prediction, Odds, Pick: Kawhi Leonard Out

Mavericks vs Clippers Game 1 Prediction, Odds, Pick: Kawhi Leonard Out article feature image

(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Pictured: Kawhi Leonard

Mavericks vs. Clippers Game 1 Prediction

Sunday, April 21
3:30 pm
Mavericks Odds
Clippers Odds
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Here's everything you need to know about Mavericks vs. Clippers on Sunday, April 21 — our expert prediction and betting picks for today's game.

Will Luka Doncic begin a run to be considered the best player in the world?

Will this be the end of the Clippers' core that had so much excitement when it formed in 2019?

Will James Harden and Paul George lead the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard out due to injury?

Can Dallas ride its late-season momentum and beat the Clippers for the first time in a series?

So many questions, so little defense as we break down mu Mavericks vs. Clippers Game 1 prediction.

Editor's note: As of 2 p.m. ET, Kawhi Leonard has been ruled out of Game 1 of Mavericks vs. Clippers due to a knee injury.

That last question is the most important for this game. The news on Leonard has been all over the place. He's listed as questionable for Game 1 and hasn't practiced this week.

Clippers President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank has said Leonard isn't dealing with structural damage, just inflammation. However, it's been stubborn. Coach Ty Lue said this week that he's preparing like Leonard will be available. Adrian Wojnarowski reported increasing "doubt" about Leonard's availability.

The market has expressed the opposite opinion. This game opened at Clippers -2 and has moved all the way to Mavericks -2.5. There is a lot of confidence in the Mavericks even if Leonard plays, but that very much seems like an expectation about Leonard's availability.

Here's what I'd say as someone who has seen these narrative pathways so often with Leonard: no one knows. Typically with a player, there's an open line of communication with the team and the training staff. Then, team sources are able to leak that information to certain privileged reporters at the national level.

That's not the case with Leonard.

It's a total mystery. The Clippers can't leak Leonard's availability because they don't know.

As a result, you shouldn't bet into this market until Leonard's availability is confirmed. You can follow the market's action, but in the Action Network app, we've tracked 27 sharp moves on the Clippers.

If you have a strong opinion on whether Leonard will play, i.e. "he'll be out because he's always out" or "he's a gamer, he'll play," then you can express that opinion in the market. But don't make assumptions that can quickly render your bet to have negative closing line value. CLV isn't everything, but given that you can just wait and bet when the information is known, it's worth waiting.

If Leonard is ruled out, this line will shoot up even more. If he's ruled in, it'll flips back to the Clippers being a small favorite. Be prepared to bet based on those expectations (and turn on line movement notifications in the Action Network app).

For the purposes of our guide, we're going to follow the market's expectation that Leonard will not play in this game, with some caveats if he does.

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Dallas Mavericks

Leonard's absence is monstrous. It means more minutes for small guards and wings from the Clippers and all of that leans toward Dallas. More Terance Mann is one thing, but it also means more Norman Powell in primary guarding positions and more Russell Westbrook on the floor next to Harden to compromise spacing. The whole thing gets very twisted very quickly.

Doncic and Kyrie Irving will be able to hunt those matchups vs. Powell and Mann or Amir Coffey in small-small screen actions. Or Doncic will instead attack iso to force help and then kick, leaving smaller and worse defenders having to rotate weak side to players who can then drive for more motion, get the defense scrambling and get the Clippers in bad rotation sequences.

Leonard wasn't going to guard Doncic for much of the game anyway, his offensive workload is just too great. But he could have guarded P.J. Washington and acted as a free safety to deter drives. The Mavericks get to become the bigger team with more of those multi-guard lineups.

The Clippers may answer with P.J. Tucker, despite his frustration with the team this season. However, Tucker's not the ISO defender he was three years ago, let alone in 2018.

The Mavericks will be able to be more aggressive on the offensive glass and won't have to burn so much energy defending Leonard or worrying about him involving Doncic in actions to make him work.

It allows Derrick Jones Jr. or Josh Green to do the work on George, which will take pressure off them to contribute offensively. It also means the Clippers will have to work harder to get out in transition to try and find easy baskets because "dribble dribble Leonard pull-up swish" won't be a bailout option.

Offensive rebound prop plays will be smart if Leonard doesn't play, particularly by Washington and Jones.

Los Angeles Clippers

For the Clippers, they're gonna need an A++ performance from George. The Clippers really needed Leonard to handle the offense, so that George could help defend Doncic. Doncic is unstoppable, that much is clear, but he dislikes long, athletic wings compared to bigger forwards or quicker guards, who he bullies.

Mann is a good defender, but there's a real risk that he'll wind up in foul trouble with Leonard out, which means more minutes for Coffey and Westbrook. That is going to impact the Clippers' spacing and ability to hang with the Mavericks' offense.

That said, if George just has an absolutely phenomenal All-NBA level game — as he is capable of having — then the Clippers can be dangerous here. Bear in mind that the Mavericks' defense has been No. 1 in the league for the past month, but is dependent on rim protection from Daniel Gafford, who was literally never a good rim protector until he was traded to the Mavericks.

Lue is an X-factor here. Without Leonard, does he try and go to four wings/guards with one big? Does he try and counter with Tucker? There's more lineup fluidity if Leonard is out.

Now, if Leonard plays, there's a very good chance the Clippers will be able to slow things down and keep pace from 3.

Mavericks vs. Clippers

Betting Pick & Prediction

Editor's note: As of 2 p.m. ET, Kawhi Leonard has been ruled out of Game 1 of Mavericks vs. Clippers due to a knee injury.

Ultimately, the Clippers are 2-5 ATS (3-6 SU) this season without Leonard against teams over .500. People ignored that George was a monster part of the team's early success and has played at an All-NBA level. But the problem is that after trading for Harden, the Clippers have fewer defenders. Ironically, they would match up with the Mavericks much better without Leonard if they had kept Nicolas Batum. Now, they have to hope Harden can carry the offense and that George can lift the team.

I'm not sold on Dallas' defense, especially on the road. I'm not sold on the idea that the Clippers are helpless against Doncic, whom they've never lost a playoff series to. But Leonard is too vital to this team, especially in this matchup.

Without Leonard, I make this Mavericks -4.5, so I'll bet the Mavericks at their current price of -3.5 on the spread. Anything beyond that, and I'll look toward prop unders for Mann and rebound overs for Jones and Washington.

Pick: Mavericks to -4.5 | Derrick Jones Jr. and P.J. Washington Rebound Over Props 

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May 23, 2024 UTC