Dallas Mavericks (32-20, 17-11 road) vs. Okla. City Thunder (30-21, 15-10 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.0 (21st), Mavericks – 108.6 (12th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.7 (3rd), Mavericks – 106.8 (16th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.3 (16th), Mavericks – 92.1 (20th)
View from the enemy: The Two Man Game
I’m still trying to shake the cobwebs off after All-Star Weekend. I haven’t totally recouped, both mentally and physically. And I didn’t really do anything. So I can’t imagine what it’s like for guys like Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook who were everywhere last weekend.
The Thunder is the first team that gets to see Dallas test out the new guys. Which actually is probably a small advantage. The Mavericks hit an absolute grand slam with the trade and are now one of the three or four best teams in the league, no doubt. BUT, there is always a feeling out process with new guys and with only one practice under their belt, the on-court chemistry might be off. In fact, the new guys didn’t even practice with the team yet. So either the Mavs will play shorthanded, or Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood will likely play limited minutes. Then again, that can all easily be reconciled by Dirk Nowitzki, so I don’t know how much it really matters.
Dallas coming in: Before the break, the Mavs were 4-6 in their last 10 and were kind of slipping. They are a good road team at 17-11 on the year though.
Other than the fact Dallas is playing with almost a brand new team, the big matchup is Shawn Marion on Kevin Durant. I’m sure we all remember the last time the Mavs came to the Ford Center. Durant had his worst game of the season, going 4-18 from the floor for just 12 points. Dallas used an interesting defensive strategy against KD, running an extra defender at Durant any time he put the ball on the floor on the wing.
Obviously, Dirk is the key for Dallas and so far, I think Serge Ibaka has done the best job on him in two games. Ibaka has the length and strength to compete with Dirk, and was good at using the technique of “getting under” Nowitzki. Jeff Green just doesn’t have the size to really match Dirk.
Inside, Brendan Haywood is a load, but again, how many minutes does he see? Same thing with Caron Butler. But it’s not like Dallas doesn’t have firepower (am I allowed to say that still?). Jason Terry will be more than able to fill any offensive void tonight.
It’s about Russell Westbrook playing well against Jason Kidd, Durant doing his routine thing and then another guy stepping up. The break surely killed some of the Thunder’s momentum, but as it stands, OKC has won six straight and is the thick of the playoff hunt. Tonight would be a great statement and a good way to get the second half kicked off on the right foot.
Tip at 7:00 CST. Go Second Half.