Thunder (52-18, 23-11 road) vs. Mavericks (42-29, 23-12 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.1 (7th), Mavs – 110.9 (4th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.2 (5th), Mavs – 108.4 (23rd)
Pace: Thunder – 95.7 (8th), Mavs – 93.9 (16th)
Nine days ago, the Mavericks handed the Thunder their biggest home loss since 2009, which is a nice way of saying, the Thunder got beat down like they used to when they sucked. Reggie Jackson put it this way after last night’s game when asked what the key is: “Pride. You saw what they did to us last week.”
The Thunder have dominated the Mavs the past few years, but there were two elements at play nine days ago. One, Russell Westbrook was out. And two, the Thunder played like crap. The Mavs had a lot to do with it because of their ball movement and shot making, but the Thunder didn’t offer too much resistance.
Both teams have a lot to play for right now, with the Mavs scrapping for a playoff spot and the Thunder desperately trying to catch the Spurs for the West’s top seed. Should be a good one.
Three Big Things
1. Russell. First time on the floor since The Great Knee Scare Of 2014. There’s no questioning how Westbrook will react, because he’s going to play his same style. But still, you have to wonder if he might protect himself a little more, or if there’s any caution from Scott Brooks or anything. He’s supposedly completely healthy, so nothing should change, but you have to wonder how things will go after everyone saw their season flash before their eyes.
2. Dribble penetration. The Mavs tore the Thunder up in the last meeting with simple offensive principles. High ball screen, hard dribble, the Thunder collapsed and over-helped to protect the paint, a kick to a shooter, another drive and another kick for a wide open shot. It was easy, it was effective. The Thunder have a simple task in slowing down that tonight: Stop the ball.
3. Knock ‘em down. The Mavs aren’t a very good defensive team and allow good looks if you just execute. They’re going to focus heavily on Durant and Westbrook, which should open things for Serge Ibaka, Caron Butler and everybody else. The Mavs can’t really match up with the Thunder, but do obviously have Dirk who is always a problem. But with small lineups, the Thunder should be able to create some matchup advantages. They just need to play well.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Keep Winning.