This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Records: The Oklahoma City Thunder (23-13) vs. The Dallas Mavericks (26-8)
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
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
Previous Meeting(s): Nov. 24, Dec. 27
I've never thought of the Thunder as encouraging a culture of losing, but if we lie down against the Mavericks tonight, I'll have to seriously reconsider my thoughts. The Thunder have now dropped two straight in a less than flattering fashion, and prospects are chancy at best for a win tonight.
While the Mavericks aren't the well-oiled basketball machine that the Spurs are, they're still a damn good basketball team capable of few blunders. The one difference between the two teams is that the Mavericks still rely on their star player, Dirk Nowitzki, to do the bulk (25%) of their scoring, whereas the Spurs have many different players who can step up and become the X-Factor for them on any given night.
The key to this game, however simply put, will be to stop the fourth quarter collapse. We can play the Mavericks competitively, but both of our previous games against them have featured terribly depressing fourth quarter collapses. It's almost as if the Mavericks are more experienced then us, and know how to shut out younger teams!
Below: The Mavericks Injuries and Strategy, Window of Opportunity, Prediction!
But, there is good news. The Mavericks will be missing Dirk Nowitzki, who is still hurting from the girly injury he suffered while playing the Thunder. Okay, so it's a pretty manly injury, but it sure did look wimpy. He's listed as day-to-day with a sore knee, and should be back soon. They will also be missing Caron Butler, ruptured his right patella tendon and will be out for the rest of the season.
This leaves the Mavericks without two of their best scorers, and a roster that is really thin beyond its starting lineup. It gives us a window of opportunity, but it doesn't put us out of the woods. After Nowitzki went out of the game during our last encounter, the Mavericks relied on Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, and Tyson Chandler for their scoring needs, and it worked remarkably well. It wasn't that any of them played beyond their abilities, it was simply that they all knew what they could do, and they executed the few plays that Rick Carlisle wrote for them in the playbook over and over again.
Undoubtedly, the playbook will be much larger for tonight's encounter, and the Mavericks have the added advantage of being at home. But the Thunder have a serious window of opportunity here. If we can't beat an experienced team in the fourth, then I say we beat them in the first, second, and third quarters. Push our leads for all they're worth. Play our best players until they're ragged. Reinstate the backdoor cut. Do whatever you can, because we really, really need this win.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 109, Dallas 99