This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Records: Mavericks 32-20, Thunder 30-21
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD Ch. 722), FSSW
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), WWLS 640-AM or ESPN/103.3 FM, KFLC/1270 AM (Spanish) should you be a Mavs fan
Enemy Blog(s): Mavs Moneyball, That Two Man Game
Backstory: As Zorgon noted last time we met up with the Mavericks, this is turning out to be quite the fun match-up between teams. Then again, we're 0-2 against Dallas this season and 4-22 against the Mavs since the 2003-04 season, which pretty much sums up precisely how successful the franchise match-ups have been.
The Thunder go into this game having won 6 (!) games in a row prior to the break. Dallas meanwhile was struggling entering the All-Star weekend, having lost nine of their past 16 games, including a 127-91 rout by Denver last Tuesday.That said, the team now looks substantially different after a seven-player trade on Saturday saw them snag Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and guard DeShawn Stevenson from Washington while giving up Josh Howard, Drew Gooden and reserves Quinton Ross and James Singleton.
For the Mavericks, winning this game would be a nice follow-up to their performance against OKC in December, if not just a small indicator of how well the pieces and meshing together -- particularly given that they have four games in the next five nights and won't have two days off in a row until March 11-12. For the Thunder, winning would help to set the tone of the franchise coming out of the All-Star weekend and help to revenge an ugly 100-86 loss at the Ford Center in December -- plus it'd pull the Thunder within one-half of a game of the Mavericks.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Probable starters (source: NewsOK.com)
Now the first thing to note is that these are the "real" probably starters. Jason Terry is likely going to be going to the bench to start most games, with Caron Butler taking his spot at the SG slot. However, most of their actual minutes will be delegated as above. Chalk me up as completely flabbergasted as to why anyone would bother to make things more complicated than necessary.
Like last time, Jason Kidd 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's an integral cog in their offensive scheme, but look for Westbrook to be aggressive and put up a bevy of points as he continues to expand on his role as the fantasy stats sheet stuffer.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Jason Terry
Jason Terry is probably going to start the game on the bench and you'll see Caron Butler here for some unfathomable reason. However, expect Terry to get most of the minutes at the 2. As far as play is concerned, Jason Terry does the single most important thing you want your SG to do: he scores and scores from everywhere. He's been absolutely on fire as of late, averaging 22.8 points per game with 6.2 assists over his last five games. He was scoring 20-plus in three straight games while averaging 2.4 steals per game and had a nice game against the Warriors in which he put up 36 points on 9 of 17 shooting from the field, including 6 of 9 from beyond the arc in 42 minutes of play (with nine assists and three steals). Unfortunately for Terry, he has the precise skillset (perimeter scorer) that Thabo feasts upon. To make things worse, Terry is a good defender but has trouble with longer, taller, and bigger players. That describes just about everyone on the OKC roster.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Dirk Nowitski Center: Nenad Krstic vs Brendan Haywood Battle of the Benches: Prediction: Oklahoma City 100, Dallas 99 (chalk it up to me being a homer) How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!
The trade for Butler brings KD-lite to the Mavs. He'll be asked to relieve some of the offensive pressure from Dirk, which ... well we'll see. KD will score more points and grab more rebounds. Butler unfortunately has shown that for some reason he can't guard small forwards this year and he looked like he was lacking intensity while hanging out in Washington. So now they want to match him up against KD? The defensive match-ups will only get worse for the Mavs if Dallas goes with their alternative plan and actually plays Butler at the 2 for extended stretches. That said, Butler has been better than Howard even with his sloppy play of late. With a chance at a new beginning, look for Caron to actually (can he do it?) stay focused for the entirety of a game.
This is going to be similar to last time -- 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 Green's quickness to outclass Dirk offensively, but I still wouldn't bet on a big game from him. The Dallas frontcourt wins by a longshot.
Brendan Haywood is an upgrade to Erick Dampier. The intriguing part is going to be how the Mavs go about splitting time between Haywood and Dampier over the rest of the season. On the negative side (for the Mavs) Haywood has a limited offensive repertoire and he's strictly an inside-oriented defender. That said, Krstic is basically never counted to provide any sort of defensive pressure, so if Dallas decides to shove the ball down our throat inside, you can count on Nenad putting up minimal resistance. I expect the Thunder will have Krstic sink shots aplenty from everywhere but inside -- if that doesn't happen, look for Krstic to find his way to the bench in short order for the night.
The Mavericks have a different bench now then they did previously, but with Beaubois, Barea, and Dampier this is still a good bench. However, the loss of Gooden and pseudo-promotion of Terry to the starting lineup coupled with the improved play of our bench makes me want to call this even or perhaps a slight edge to us.
Coaching and Intangibles:
I'll have to go with the Thunder on this one, as OKC is riding a 6 game winning streak, playing at home, looking to revenge a loss, and playing with an intact roster. Dallas has upgraded their roster over the weekend, but they also haven't played a single game together in their new roles and they are coming in after having a rough end stretch to their first half.
If the Thunder can play with solid defensive intensity, KD supplies efficient offensive production, we score at least 100 points, and Haywood doesn't destroy us inside I'd say we're a lock to win this thing. If we hit a few of those markers, we'll have a competitive chance to win. If we fail at most of those items, look for another disappointing loss. This game is somewhat of a shot in the dark, because nobody really has an inkling how the new pieces are going to fit for the Mavs.
And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Dirk Nowitski
Center: Nenad Krstic vs Brendan Haywood
Battle of the Benches:
Prediction: Oklahoma City 100, Dallas 99 (chalk it up to me being a homer)
How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!
Who's going to win tonight?
This poll is closed
Oklahoma City Thunder