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The Dallas Mavericks will be without star forward Kristaps Porzingis against the Los Angeles Clippers in a decisive Game 5 Tuesday night. The 7-3 big man will miss his second consecutive playoff game due to right knee soreness. He was listed as questionable as of Tuesday morning’s injury report, however, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported that Porzingis was downgraded to out for the game.

This is a monumental blow for a Mavericks team that is riding off the momentum of Luka Doncic’s game-winning shot Sunday afternoon that tied the series up at 2-2 against the heavily favored Clippers. Dallas played without Porzingis in that game as well, and got huge performances from Trey Burke (25 points), Tim Hardaway Jr., (21 points) and Seth Curry (15 points) to help supplement Doncic’s 43-point, 17-rebound and 13-assist triple-double masterpiece. The Mavericks will have to see if those players can deliver another game-changing performance without having Porzingis there. 

With the Latvian All-Star out, that means that coach Rick Carlisle could likely go small again and insert Trey Burke in the starting lineup, who has played tremendously well for Dallas throughout this series. It also means that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will get more playing time, as well as Boban Marjanovic, as the Mavs are incredibly thin in the frontcourt. Dallas entered the bubble without Dwight Powell and Willie Cauley-Stein, two players they could desperately use with Porzingis out. Kidd-Gilchrist, though, provides solid defense despite his offensive game being incredibly limited. Marjanovic put up 10 points in Game 4, and had a 13-point, nine-rebound performance in Game 2, as he’s essentially unguardable under the rim due to him being 7-4. He’s a negative defensively, because he’s a liability anywhere outside of the paint, but he’s worked well with Doncic to leave the Clippers scratching their heads on how to guard him. 

In the three games that Porzingis has played in the postseason, he’s averaged 23.7 points and 8.7 rebounds, while being incredibly efficient from 3-point range (52.9 percent) and shooting 52.5 percent from the field. Not having him on the floor effects Dallas’ entire offense. His pick-and-roll game with Doncic has become one of the most potent in the league, as he’s been able to pop out and sink 3s at a high rate, and he’s always a lob threat when he’s rolling to the rim. On defense, no one on the Mavs roster can fill in for his rim protecting abilities, which was evidenced in Game 4 as Clippers’ big man Ivica Zubac put up 15 points without much interior resistance. 

As far as Porzingis’ knee goes, the positive for Dallas is that it’s not the knee that he tore his ACL in back in 2018. But it is the same knee that required the big man to miss 10 games back in January of this season. He had an MRI on that knee on Sunday, and Carlisle said at the time that nothing from the MRI showed reason that he would have to sit out, per the Dallas Morning News‘ Brad Townsend. However, injuries like knee soreness can change day-to-day and hour-to-hour, so it’s clear that Porzingis’ knee wasn’t in a good enough place this morning for the Mavs to say he could suit up tonight. 

In addition to Porzingis being out, on the 11 a.m. league injury report Dorian Finney-Smith was listed as questionable for Dallas with a left hip strain and right hip soreness. There’s no word on if Finney-Smith will be upgraded to be ready to play for Tuesday night’s game, but if he doesn’t play, the Mavs will also be without their best defender on the floor. Game 4 was an electric, hard-fought win for the Mavs, but it appears as though Game 5 is going to be another tall task for them to overcome the Clippers.

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