Today we have the privilege of bringing to you one of the writers at the great SB Nation Mavericks site, Mavs Moneyball. They do a great job over there and I would encourage you to make their site part of your daily readings to get the best handle possible on the series that is about to unfold.
I also had the privilege of conducting some Q&A with MMB's head honcho, Lisa Rotter, and you can find those Q&A sessions here:
If you would like to read my comments about how the Mavs can beat the Thunder, you can find that post here
Hey, people of Welcome to Loud City! I'm Tim/tcat75, editor over at Mavs Moneyball, and an obsessed Mavericks fan in real life. While I'd love to waltz in and tell you that I feel completely confident, I know the Mavericks too well then to assume anything. A four game sweep against the defending champs was entirely too easy, and without a doubt karma is a'coming. I'm still predicting a Mavericks win, but this will be a tough, drawn out series that has the potential to become classic. If the Thunder play their cards right, there's no doubt in my mind that they are capable of winning. Here are the three keys to beating Dallas.
1. Contest the Three Point Shooters
The Mavericks have always been great jump shooters inside the arc, but only recently has their three point shooting become such a deadly weapon. There are many factors to this, especially the addition of Peja Stojakovic mid-season, but the primary one is that the Mavericks simply get a ton of wide open looks. The Maverick offense is extremely unselfish, led by Jason Kidd's example, and are superb at rotating the ball to the weak side. Skip passes, drive and kicks, and Dirk passing out of double teams are all used to accomplish this. Just look at Game 4 of the Lakers series: clearly, the Mavericks shooting was nearly transcendent, but every single one of the Mavericks twenty three point buckets was assisted. Watching the game, you'll see that well over half of them were hardly even contested (and not just because the Lakers gave up).
If the Thunder can get a hand in the faces of the shooters (and granted there are a lot to account for), then the Mavericks will have to win a game playing a different style than they are used to. They can do it, as evidenced by Game 5 against Portland back in the first round (just 18% from deep), but clearly it is an advantage to take any team out of their game. If the Thunder can find a way to defend the three point line effectively without making too many sacrifices inside on Dirk, Marion, and Chandler (much harder than it sounds), then this series will become much more difficult for the Mavericks.
2. Attack Tyson Chandler
This year, the biggest difference for the Dallas Mavericks has been an increased physicality on both offense and defense, led by the offseason acquisition Tyson Chandler. He quickly become the emotional leader of the Mavericks, and is both a huge defensive presence to compliment Dirk Nowitzki, as well as a scrappy clean up man on offense who'll hit his free throws and throw in a few lobs. However, he has a tendency to pick up cheap fouls, something that exhibited itself several times in the Portland series. If Oklahoma City can keep Tyson in foul trouble, then the Mavericks lose the center of their defense and are forced to use Brenden Haywood, whose best offense comes when he is sitting on the bench.
3. Don't Let Marion Get Started
Headed into the postseason, a lot of people were placing hope in Shawn Marion to really help the Mavericks offensively, along with his stellar defense. It made sense, and personally I was on board too. After all, Marion had averaged almost almost 18 points a game on 59% shooting in the month of April, all while grabbing eight rebounds a game. His low post game was a steady source for points, and he was seeming to find more easy looks around the basket than ever. However, Marion is scoring just 9.7 points per game on 9.6 shots a game so far this postseason, and his typical spot at the end of games has even been replaced by Peja Stojakovic several times. He's still contributing, but they are way down from what Maverick fans have seen out of him. If he is able to get rolling, finding the gaps in the Thunder defense and exploiting them with easy flip shots and floaters, then its just going to leave more Dallas shooters open and ready to make OKC pay.
Many thanks to Tim, and once again, be sure to check out Mavs Moneyball to get the best perspective on the Dallas Mavericks.