The Dallas Mavericks (39-27) continue to truck along in their wild playoff race along with Golden State, Memphis and Phoenix. After a solid road win behind the magnificent Dirk Nowitzki performance in Utah, Dallas now faces the Oklahoma City Thunder (48-17) – a team they’ve lost to 11 straight times.
The Game At Hand:
The Mavs took care of business against the Jazz, but winning tonight in Oklahoma City will be all kinds of difficult. As mentioned the Thunder have only lost to the Mavericks once since the two teams met in the 2011 Western Conference Finals. In the 11 consecutive defeats, including the 2012 first round sweep, Dallas lost by six or less in seven of those games.
At the end of the day, close does not cut it. It gives you a chance, but losing still feels the same awful way.
Dallas comes into tonight’s game on three days rest. They are 8-4 when playing after a two or three day break. Meanwhile the Thunder are a mere 5-5 in such games. What this tells you is the Mavericks should come out guns blazin’ against a team with much younger legs and put them on their heels.
Keys To The Game:
1. Play Smart
The Mavericks right now have it in their minds the Thunder have not been easy to beat. They know this. You don’t lose 11 straight to a team and not have them in your head. The time of having that advantage over the diaper babies Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is over. It’s now about playing smart and making less mistakes than they do. OKC thrives off turnovers and piling up points on the break. Limit those chances for them by valuing the ball.
2. Effort and Hustle
It’s not always going to guarantee the win, but effort and hustle go a long way in ensuring you left everything on the court without the feeling of regret. That said, we’ve seen the games where our Mavericks have etched into our minds hustle plays that proved the urgency to win (The Vince Carter multiple tap rebound and eventual Jose Calderon 3-point basket vs. Indiana). It’ll be important Dallas shows that level of effort tonight and outwork the Thunder in the trenches.
Matchup of the Night:
Thunder Bench vs Mavericks Bench
To think anyone is going to stop or slow down the league’s best scorer in Durant isn’t realistic, these days it’s like false hope. What you can do is make him work hard for his scoring attempts. The point is Durant and the seemingly always snarled-faced Westbrook will get theirs more often than not. Same can be said for Dirk.
This leads me to an area of strength for the Mavericks and where the Thunder are well-equipped themselves. Each team has a bench mixed with veterans and some youth. Dallas boasts a group of Devin Harris, F/C duo Brandan Wright and DeJuan Blair led by the age-defying Vince Carter. They’ve played extremely well of late which really helps a starting unit that can go cold outside of Dirk and Monta Ellis.
OKC has used both Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III off the bench with veterans Nick Collison and Derek Fisher. A short time ago they added former Mavs champion Caron Butler to add even more experience.
Looking forward to watch which reserve group brings more to the table tonight. This clearly needs to roll in Dallas’ favor as they don’t possess the same firepower to match the Durant/Westbrook combo.
“Dirk is one of the best shot makers in the game’s history. [Monta] Ellis does a good job of finding his offense with his aggressiveness, his quickness, he gets to the paint. We’re really going to have to play good defense for 24 seconds because they pass until they find a good shot.”
- Thunder head coach Scott Brooks on Dallas’ attack
“They [OKC] put a lot of pressure on both ends. You have to get good shots and the only way to do that is to move the ball, quickly. If you turn it over, those guys are doing chin-ups, if they’re dunks, and they get going in that building.”
- Rick Carlisle on the Thunder
When and Where:
Tip-off at Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight is at 6:00 p.m. CST. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest and Fox Sports Oklahoma.
6. Golden State (41-26) | Next 3 – @POR, vs ORL, vs MIL
7. Dallas Mavericks (39-27) | Next 3 – @OKC, vs BOS, vs MIN
8. Memphis Grizzlies (39-27) | Next 3 – vs UTAH, @MIA & vs IND
9. Phoenix Suns (36-27) | Next 3 – @BKN, vs ORL, vs DET
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