Preview 12 of 82: Thunder @ Mavericks

Time: 8:00 PM CST

TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma

Game Notes: Thunder / Mavericks

The Thunder (7-4) are looking for their eighth straight win tonight against the Dallas Mavericks (3-8). They have looked surprisingly good in the absence of Russell Westbrook, who remains sidelined with an ankle injury.

The Thunder currently boast the second-best defense in the NBA with a defensive rating of 100.3. On Thursday, OKC held the Rockets to just 80 points – the lowest point total this season and the lowest point total for the Rockets under Mike D’Antoni.

Tonight’s game is the first in a series of upcoming matchups against sub-.500 teams (Suns, Knicks, Suns), so the Thunder have a real opportunity to add a few more games to their winning streak. The key to tonight’s game will be OKC continuing to play at a high level and not to the level of their opponent.

Tip-off is at 8:00 PM CT on Fox Sports Oklahoma. According to OddsShark, the Thunder are 1.5-point favorites on the road.


Injury Report

Thunder:

  • Russell Westbrook: Out — Ankle
  • Andre Roberson: Out — Knee

Mavericks:

  • Luka Doncic: Questionable — Knee
  • Devin Harris: Questionable — Hamstring
  • Wesley Matthews: Questionable — Hip
  • Dirk Nowitzki: Out — Ankle

Probable Starters

Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Luka Doncic, Harrison Barnes, DeAndre Jordan


What to Watch For

Paul Does It All. Paul George is responsible for a large part of OKC’s successful defense this season. George is currently leading the league in steals (2.8) for the second-straight season. In addition to his defensive skills, George ranks 10th in 3-pointers made making him one of only two players (James Harden) to rank in the top 10 in both steals and 3-pointers made. In Thursday’s game against the Rockets, George finished with 20 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, and 6 steals. If George can sustain his success on both ends of the court, he has a strong case for becoming the best two-way player in the NBA.

Rookie Rising. The Mavericks are headlined tonight by their star rookie and the 5th pick in the NBA draft, Luka Doncic. Doncic has been phenomenal for Dallas so far averaging 20.2 ppg, 4.2 apg, and 6.5 rpg. However, Doncic is also averaging 4.2 turnovers per game and this is a weakness that the Thunder can easily capitalize on. OKC is leading the league in steals per contest (11.73) and turnovers forced per game (19.2). The majority of Dallas’ offense runs through Doncic so keeping the pressure on him will be key to containing the Mavericks.

Threes, Please. OKC’s 3-point shooting has drastically improved since their 0-4 start, but they still have work to do. Over their first 4 games of the season, OKC was shooting 24.1% from three (last in the NBA). In their last 7 games, the Thunder are shooting 32.3% from three. However, they are still holding the lowest average 3-point percentage in the league (29%). In Thursday’s game against the Houston Rockets, Terrance Ferguson hit 4 threes for OKC (his season high). The Thunder have never been a top 3-point shooting team and last season averaged 35.4% last season, but it is something that Paul George, Alex Abrines, and Terrance Ferguson will have to become more consistent at if OKC wants to contend offensively.

Assisting and Attacking. Steven Adams tallied four assists in Thursday’s game against the Rockets– a big uptick from his season average of 1.6 assists. He is becoming particularly adept at passing out of the double team and creating open looks for his teammates. If Adams can add “elite passer” to his already dynamic arsenal this season, he could cement himself in the upper echelon of NBA bigs. Here Adams is double-teamed by Harden and Paul but makes an over-the-shoulder pass to Ferguson for the wide open dunk:

Adams will face a tall task under the basket tonight– DeAndre Jordan. Jordan and Adams have sparred many times, but this will be the first time they meet since Jordan signed with the Mavericks. In their last meeting on March 16, 2018, Adams bested Jordan in field goal percentage but Jordan got the best of Adams in total rebounds. Tonight will be another opportunity for Adams to pass out of the double team to open shooters as Jordan and the Mavericks will guard Adams closely tonight.

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