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Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
TV: NBATV, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network Southwest
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), ESPN 103.3 KESN-FM
The Thunder travel back to Dallas tonight for a third meeting against the world champion Mavericks. When the two teams last faced each other, they seemed to be moving in different directions. The Thunder were 5-0 and looking to put a stamp on their renewed confidence against Dallas, and the Mavs were 1-4 and trying to figure out how to remake themselves this season after losing key players from last year's championship squad.
Oh how one game can turn the tides.
In that January 2nd game, the Mavericks finally began to right their ship, defeating the Thunder handily. Since that moment, the Mavs are 13-4 and are getting good contributions from Vince Carter, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Delonte West. As a result, they now sit at the top of the Southwest.
During the pre-season, the new-look Mavs seemed to have two things going against them since they lost Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson - defense and rebounding. Not surprisingly, these were two areas that the Thunder wanted to exploit, and did so during their first match-up in December. Since then however, the Mavs have morphed into a much better team on both fronts - they are 10th in rebounding and 5th in points allowed. These facts should tell us that, despite the team's new mechanics, they are still doing the same things carried them to wins last season.
For the Thunder to let go of the Clippers loss and deal with the Mavs tonight, they will need to show much greater patience early in the game, since Dallas thrives on facing teams that like to waste possessions. OKC also will need to continue to do good work on the defensive boards in order to eliminate the shot attempt disparity that often haunts them. Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki is still getting healthy, but in the past few games has given great effort to help the rebounding cause.
Defensively, the Thunder will be facing a jump-shooting Mavericks team that is getting great production out of Dirk, Jason Terry, Carter, and Shawn Marion. Terry is the guy to worry about the most though, because he is the one player who can get 30 points in the blink of an eye and has a knack for late-game moments.
I believe the Thunder will be at full attention tonight and will not be sloppy in either their defense or their rebounding as they were in the 2nd match-up. On the strength of these two facets, I think they will put behind their loss and get back in the win column.
Prediction: Thunder 102, Mavericks 95