LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles Clippers will open their first-round NBA playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks tonight, seeking to complete their 50th season with their first championship.
“We want to win the championship,'' Clippers guard Paul George said. “That's the reason we committed to be here. It's as simple as that. We should have one goal and we have one goal, and that's to win it.
“But I think also we looking at this thing from a long-term perspective, as well, that if it doesn't happen, this is only going to build us even further going down the stretch, going into next season.
“But first things first. We are here to compete for that championship and nothing else matters but to win it.''
The Clippers enter the playoffs with the best chance of winning the NBA championship, 30%, according to the ABC News-owned data prediction website FiveThirtyEight.com.
The prediction is based on its RAPTOR player ratings, which use play-by-play and player-tracking data to calculate each player's individual plus-minus measurements and wins above replacement. The ratings are updated daily.
The Milwaukee Bucks have the second-best chance at 22%, one percentage point ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The site gives the Clippers an 87% chance of winning the Dallas series, a 72% chance of defeating either the Denver Nuggets or Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals and a 43% chance of winning the Western Conference.
Not only have the Clippers never won an NBA championship, they have never reached the Western Conference finals. If they win their first two playoff series, they would face the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals if the Lakers win their first two series. Los Angeles' two NBA franchises have never met in the post-season.
This is the eighth time in the last nine seasons the Clippers have reached the playoffs. This will be their first postseason with forward Kawhi Leonard and George, who were acquired in the off-season.
Leonard is a two-time NBA Finals MVP, including last season when he helped lead the Toronto Raptors to the title. George is a five-time All-NBA Team selection and a four-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team.
Both Leonard and George played high school basketball in Southern California -- Leonard at Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley and Martin Luther King High School in Riverside and George at Knight High School in Palmdale.
The Clippers were 49-23 in the regular season, earning the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Their .681 winning percentage was fourth-best in franchise history while their 49 victories equaled the sixth-most, despite playing 12 games fewer than normal because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dallas was 43-32 in the regular season and the seventh seed in the Western Conference. This is the first time the Mavericks have qualified for the playoffs since 2016.
Dallas' .573 winning percentage was its best since the 2014-15 season.
The Clippers were 5-3 in the seeding games, including winning their last two.
Leonard had the best average plus-minus during the seeding games, 13.3 points. He was the eighth-leading scorer in the seeding games, averaging 28.8 points. The 6-foot-7-inch forward was an NBA All-Seeding Games second-team selection in voting by sportswriters and broadcasters who were on site covering the 2019-20 season restart at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
The Mavericks were 3-5 in the seeding games, including losing their last two. Luka Doncic was a first-team All-Seeding Games selection. The 6-foot-7-inch forward-guard was seventh in the seeding games in scoring, averaging 30.0 points per game.
Kristaps Porzingis was a second-team All-Seeding Games selection. The 7-foot-3-inch forward-center tied for fifth in the seeding games in scoring, averaging 30.5 points per game.
The Clippers were 3-0 against Dallas in the regular season, winning 114-99 Nov. 26 and 110-107 Jan. 21, both in Dallas, and 126-111 in a seeding game Aug. 6.
This will be the first postseason series between the two teams.
Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is set for 6 p.m. PDT and will be televised by ESPN and Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
The entire NBA postseason will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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