2012-2013 Game 28 Preview: Dirk is Back, But is it Enough vs. Thunder?

Who wants to bet this play resulted in a sick left-handed Nick Collison hook shot? - Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE

Yes, the once fierce rivalry has been turned on its' head. The once mighty Dallas Mavericks, after a series of trades, have become shadows of their former selves. They've lost 6 of their last 7 games, including a drubbing against the lowly Toronto Raptors.

2012-2013 NBA Season
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The Dallas Mavericks (12-16)
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The Oklahoma City Thunder (19-4)
December 27th, 2012
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
7:00 PM CST
Turner Network Television Only
WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), ESPN Radio 103.3 FM
Enemy Blogs: Mavs Moneyball, The Two Man Game,
Previous Meetings: None.
Probable Starters
Dominique Jones PG Russell Westbrook
O.J. Mayo SG Thabo Sefolosha
Shawn Marion SF Kevin Durant
Dirk Nowitzki PF Serge Ibaka
Chris Kaman C Kendrick Perkins

Yes, the once fierce rivalry has been turned on its' head. The once mighty Dallas Mavericks, after a series of trades, have become shadows of their former selves. They've lost 6 of their last 7 games, including a drubbing against the lowly Toronto Raptors.

What's happened? Well it's hard to explain. The Mavericks weren't on anybody's radar heading into the season, especially with Dirk Nowitzki out for the first 27 games. But somehow, they managed to make a decent run until their schedule got tough, where the rag tag team folded under pressure. On top of all this, the team has easily had the biggest roster turnover of any squad this season. In October, they signed Melvin Ely and Chris Douglas-Roberts for one day. One day. Delonte West was waived before the season even started. Experiments with Derek Fisher, Troy Murphy, and Eddy Curry all turned up fruitless. And most recently, Chris Douglas-Roberts has made a glorious return to the team after some great play in the D-League.

Appropriately, the Mavs are really, really inconsistent. They have the guile to go toe-to-toe with some of the league's best teams, but sometimes, they fall really flat and don't recover, finding themselves deep in 20-30 point losses. Individual players have had mojo problems as well. Specifically, the Mavs have had no consistency at point guard. Darren Collison looked like the obvious answer, but he hit a huge rough patch over the past couple of weeks and has been reduced to backup minutes. Derek Fisher did an admirable job in his short time with the Mavericks, but a injury forced him back into quasi-retirement. Meanwhile, Rodrigue Beaubois has been as exciting as a baloney sandwich, leaving Dominique Jones as their starting point guard. Yep.

As a team, the Mavs are a jack of all trades. Other than the fact that they ascribe to the Doc Rivers coaching philosophy and don't try to get offensive boards, they're good at everything, but great at nothing. They have 10 guys who have played 20 games or more, and this doesn't include the short rentals of Fisher and Murphy. They're a really adjustable and well-rounded team, but they've had no rock of production to lay their hat on....until now.

Finally, Dirk Nowitzki has returned from knee surgery to help spring this team from the ashes. After telling no one, he showed up in the layup lines before Sunday's game to play around 20 minutes of action. It's unknown if his minutes are limited or anything, but I expect him to be a serious factor tonight, and a cause for the Mavericks to rally around.

Thus, tonight, the Mavericks will probably give the Thunder a run for their money. Serge Ibaka's offense may have improves, but there's still no way that he can stop the Dirk. O.J. Mayo has had some solid games against the Thunder in the past, and the Thunder will find it hard to shut down a paint threat like Chris Kaman. But at the end of the day, the Mavericks are still a team in flux, and the Thunder should have the ability to close this one out.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 101, Dallas Mavericks 99.

If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.

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