This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: KSBI-TV, Fox Sports Southwest, ESPN
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Backstory: As a team that's not even one and a half years old, we don't have many rivalries. In fact, to fans in Oklahoma City, I'd say we have 0 rivalries. The only time they'll take a game seriously is when the team we're facing is really good, or when the Thunder are on National TV. To fans nationally, the thunder might have a rivalry going with the TrailBlazers, but to fans in Oklahoma City, the rivalry is irrelevant. In fact, I don't think I can even remember the games against the TrailBlazers, except through a recap I read.
But I think the closest we're getting to a rivalry is the one with our neighbors to the South, the Dallas Mavericks. Some were gunning for a Denver rivalry, but after last nights snorefest combined with the fact that only one game was really good makes for a dud of a rivalry. The Mavericks, on the other hand, have provided an entertaining game every time we've met them. Our first game against them was a close loss, which was one of the first indications that last season's Thunder weren't going to be the worst team in NBA history. Then, we had a close overtime loss in Dallas, and finally, a victory in Oklahoma City through a rally of some of our worst players. No Green? No Durant? No problem, just have Kyle Weaver go off on them!
But, this season, the games actually have meaning for both teams. We are both gunning for good seeds in the Western playoffs. The Mavericks have been doing a lot better, but what's to say that we don't already have their number? The players may have changed, but the coach and the strategy is the same.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Center: Nenad Krstic vs. Erick Dampier
Erick Dampier isn't as young as he used to be. In fact, he's at the ripe old age of 34. But he's always proved to be the perfect compliment to Dirk Nowitski. Whereas Dirk is focused on offense, Dampier provides the yin to his yang by focusing on defense and inside battles. Even though he's facing a light weight in Nenad Krstic, I wouldn't expect Dampier to go above 15 Points or so, though. You can only set up so many plays for him, but expect him to really own the rebounding department,
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Dirk Nowitski
Jeff Green has never done well against big players, but Dirk Nowitski isn't your typical 7 footer. He'll get the same numbers as Dwight Howard, sure. But he'll do it through sheer size and outside shooting prowess, rather than bullying his way into dunks. This might open up opportunities for Jeff Greens quickness to outclass Dirk offensively, but I still wouldn't bet on a big game from him. The Dallas frontcourt wins by a longshot.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Shawn Marion
Shawn Marion is your typical above-average small forward. He'll get you just over 12 points, grab a couple of rebounds, and dish an assist. But he's no match for Durant. He'll produce his usual game offensively, but Durant will put up far better numbers.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Jose Juan Barea
Jose Juan Barea is the only member of the Mavericks starting five to not have played pro-basketball in the 90s. Still, that doesn't make him any worse than his counterparts. He's known as a quick combo guard who can light it up on occasion for bunches of points. Unfortunately for him, he's going up against one of the best defenders in the NBA, and he won't have much success.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Jason Kidd
This isn't your father's Jason Kidd. He can't defend or score as well as he used to, but, luckily for the Mavericks, his lightning quick passing skills and his ability to rebound are still there. He'll definitely out-assist Westbrook tonight, but I have a feeling Westbrook will put more points on him. It should be interesting to see the old guard vs. the new.
Battle of the Benches:
The Mavericks, as always, have an incredibly deep and talented bench, including the likes of Drew Gooden, Jason Terry, and Rodrigue Beaubois, who is way better and awesomer than B.J. Mullens. Since we're still without a Point Guard, I'll give them the win here.
Coaching and Intangibles:
Both teams are equally rested and have almost their full roster intact, but the Mavericks are at home, so they have the advantage.
This is the last game of the "Deadly Trio" that we lined up, with games against the Cavaliers and the Nuggets prior. If we can win this one, I'd say it was a successful 3 game stretch. But if we can't dial the Mavericks number again tonight, I'll have serious doubts about our playoff chances. And yes, I said the P-Word! If the Thunder can get some production out of Green and make sure Westbrook doesn't put up too many bad shots, I'd say we have a good shot at winning this thing.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 112, Dallas 110 (OT)
How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!
And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below. I'll be in the Ford Center cheering the teams on, but I'll be back to write a recap later tonight. Go Thunder!