DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers will go head-to-head in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Los Angeles features no shortage of star-power, but the Mavs are ready for the challenge. However, the Clippers have found success against the Mavericks in the playoffs.

Los Angeles defeated Dallas in the postseason in the opening round of the postseason in both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. The Clippers took care of business in six games in 2019-20, but the Mavs made things interesting in 2020-21. Nevertheless, Los Angeles emerged victorious in seven games.

So will the 2023-24 playoffs see a different result? Here are three reasons why the Mavericks will defeat the Clippers in the 2024 postseason.

Improved defense

LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) controls the ball as Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) defends during the second quarter at American Airlines Center.
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Defense wins championships is the old adage, and it holds a lot of truth. In today's scoring-heavy league, finding any kind of consistency on the defensive end of the floor is crucial.

Dallas' defense struggled to begin the 2023-24 campaign, but the acquisitions of Daniel Gafford and PJ Washington ahead of the trade deadline helped them find new life on defense. The Mavs featured one of the better all-around defensive units in the second half of the regular season.

As a result, they finished 18th in defensive rating overall, per NBA.com.

Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd thinks the team's size has played a big role in that regard, both in the rebounding and defensive departments.

“When you are bigger… It just helps.” Kidd said after practice on Tuesday. “Nothing against when our smalls are in there, it's just harder to rebound when you do get that missed shot.”

Forcing missed shots is pivotal, and being able to grab the defensive rebounds will be important. At the end of the day, it will be the Mavericks' performance on the defensive end of the floor that determines the outcome of the series. The Mavs are going to score with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving leading the way, but their improved defense is the X-factor.

Mavericks' depth

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) celebrates after play at the end of regulation against the Houston Rockets at American Airlines Center.
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The Gafford and Washington acquisitions have been helpful to say the least. Dallas has other role players who have stepped up, though.

Dante Exum has played at a high level when healthy. He can score a basket when you need it, and he's also a respectable defensive presence.

Derrick Jones Jr. is an athletic forward capable of making an impact on both ends of the floor. Jones and Exum will try their best to contain the Clippers stars in the series.

Kidd was asked about Jones' defense on Tuesday.

“He's been great all year,” Kidd said. “He's taken the challenge, being assigned the best perimeter scorer, he's never complained. He comes out and does his job at a high level. He's going to have his hands full in this series because it's not just one. They have quite a few of them (star scorers) over there… We need him to be himself and play the game at a high level.”

The Mavericks will need depth on offense as well. Josh Green has become a reliable three-point shooter for the Mavericks. His ability to connect from deep on corner three-point attempts is important given Dallas' offense strategy.

Doncic and Irving will have help in this series. In the end, though, it all begins with the Mavericks star-studded duo.

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (2) and guard Luka Doncic (77) talk during the first quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center.
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Doncic and Irving were both fantastic during the 2023-24 season. Luka is going to be an MVP finalist at the very least. Irving would have likely made an All-NBA team had he reached the 65-game threshold (he played in 58 games in 2023-24).

It's going to be a battle of star-power in the Mavericks-Clippers series, as Paul George and Kawhi Leonard will lead Los Angeles.

Luka recently addressed the Clippers stars, acknowledging that they will provide a challenge.

“Amazing players (Leonard and George), man,” Doncic said. “Those two, they play well together. Everybody knows what they can do offensively and defensively. I say every game is going to be tough. Those two guys are amazing players and it's going to be tough to stop them.”

Fortunately, Doncic and Irving happen to play their best basketball in clutch moments. Mavericks fans are confident in the team's superstars for good reason.