Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks: 2011-2012 Game 4 Preview; The Mavericks Look to Recover Their Mojo

If you're not at the arena, make sure to check out our GameThread at 7.

Records: The Oklahoma City Thunder (3-0) vs. The Dallas Mavericks (0-2)

Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time

Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

TV: Turner Network Television

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), ESPN 103.3 KESN-FM

Enemy Blog(s): Mavs Moneyball, That Two Man Game

As I said, we would be seeing a LOT of the Mavericks this season. After two pre-season encounters, the Thunder are facing the Mavs just a week later in the regular season. As if the Conference Finals playoff series wasn't enough of them already.

But these Mavericks are quite different than the ones we knew. They let Tyson Chandler walk to New York, Caron Butler gallop to the Clippers, Jose Juan Barea trot to Minnesota, DeShawn Stevenson mosey over to New Jersey, Peja Sotjakovic retire, and traded Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer to the Nuggets for a second round pick. Meanwhile, they claimed Lamar Odom off of waivers and signed Vince Carter, Brandon Wright, Delonte West, and Sean Williams. In case all of these moves don't make sense, let me put it this way. Instead of relying on role players as they have in the past, they're relying in star power and proven winners like Carter and Odom, while putting a lot more faith in some of their familiar faces to fill the gaps, like Brandon Haywood, Ian Mahimni, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Brian Cardinal.

So far, the results have been disastrous. The Mavs haven't established a clear rotation, and their decisions on who to start have been baffling. Delonte West over Terry and Carter? Haywood over Odom? Really? It's almost as if Rick Carlisle is stuck in the past, trying to play lineups that require much more defensively oriented players to be in the mix. Or it's as if Donnie Nelson has took too much of his father's advice to heart and established a run and gun roster.

Whatever the case, tonight should be an excellent litmus test. The Mavericks are facing a team that is undoubtedly good, but one that they also have a number of matchup advantages against. If the Mavericks can't beat or at least compete with the Thunder tonight, then we'll know they have a real problem.

But I don't see the lineups changing just yet. Rick Carlisle is known for being pretty flexible in whom he gets minutes, and I expect to see a few more games of the Mavs testing out the waters before they get too ground in their rotations. So, expect a relatively competitive game before the Mavericks blow it with a weird lineup in the third or fourth.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 98, Dallas Mavericks 88

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