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2013-2014 Game 71 Preview: Please Thunder, Beat the Mavericks

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Another 2.5 years of winning starts today!

We'll have no more of Angry Scott Brooks, as well as no more of angry, well-dressed, and out-of-focus Perk.
We'll have no more of Angry Scott Brooks, as well as no more of angry, well-dressed, and out-of-focus Perk.
2013-2014 NBA Season
Won 4

Lost 1
March 25th, 2014
The American Airlines Arena, Dallas, Texas
7:00 PM Central Standard Time
TV: Turner Network Television
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM/640 AM), ESPN 103.3 FM
Injury Report: Kendrick Perkins (Out), Thabo Sefolosha (Out), Jose Calderon (Questionable), Gal Mekel (Out)
Previous Matchups: Nov 6 (W, 107-93), Mar 16 (L, 86-109)
Probable Starters
Russell Westbrook! (Woo!) PG Jose Calderon or Devin Harris
Andre Roberson SG Monta Ellia
Kevin Durant SF Shawn Marion
Serge Ibaka PF Dirk Nowitzki
Steven Adams C Samuel Dalembert
2013/14 Advanced Stats
98.2 (T-7th) Pace 96.2 (16th)
107.6 (7th) ORtg 108.6 (3rd)
100.3 (5th) DRtg 105.6 (22nd)

I know that a lot of people who come to this blog have never been to the place known as Oklahoma City. Quite honestly, that's fine. There's not a lot of culturally significant places here in the grand scheme of things, and I'm just glad that we have other people out there who love our team as much as we do.

But if you're going to be a Thunder fan, you must understand one thing: People from Oklahoma hate Texas. Specifically, people from Oklahoma City hate Dallas.

I know it's not a universal truth. I mean, Dallas isn't a terrible city. It has a nice train system, architecturally interesting buildings downtown, and lots of steak restaurants. But they're basically Oklahoma City's big brother. For example:

  • We were deprived of a major sports franchise for years because Dallas considers us "part of their market". Indeed, we used to get all of the Mavericks and Stars games, and still get all of the Cowboy games. They're basically the entire reason we'll never get an NFL team.
  • All of the flights that go through the southern corner of the US stop in Dallas, so OKC residents have to change planes there any time we want to go anywhere.
  • All of the signs pointing to I-35 South indicate that it goes directly to Dallas, completely ignoring Norman. Meanwhile, signs pointing to I-35 North in Dallas indicate that you're going to Denton, never mentioning OKC until you're well out of the metroplex.
  • There's tons of billboards all around OKC with ads for Dallas' tourism agency, telling us how much there is to "discover" just three hours south.
  • Dallas has TWO entire series of TV Shows that simply have the city's name as the title. Dallas also has Walker, Texas Ranger. We have Twister and Saving Grace....
  • And if all that weren't enough, we even get constantly ragged on in one of the greatest cartoons of all time.

So, as you can imagine, I took great pride in the Thunder's 11 game win streak over the Mavericks, which spanned from December 29th, 2011 to March 16th, 2014. That's a long period of domination, and it was glorious. While the Mavs struggled to find their post-championship footing and attract free agents, the Thunder soared and won numerous close clashes.

Sadly, Dallas brought that streak to an end just over a week ago. With Russell Westbrook out of the picture, the Thunder were never able to get any sort of consistent offense going. The Mavericks rolled in every sense of the word, with only Durant and Jackson managing solid offense nights from the floor. Derek Fisher and Caron Butler were particularly terrible, as they attempted to carry a decimated second team.

Tonight, the Thunder have Russell Westbrook, so that definitely changes things a bit. Westbrook is definitely the best ballhandler on the team, and does a lot to get players the ball in the right spot. Having that extra shot creator frees up Reggie Jackson to lead the bench.

But an injured Westbrook is kind of a double-edged sword. Russ is still obviously in the recovery process, and we still don't know exactly how much his incident in Toronto will effect him. His shot can get ridiculously off-target at times, and he's prone to losing his assignment on defense. Normally all of this would have me worried about his performance against a great offensive team like the Mavs, but after how horribly the Thunder's offense tanked last time, it's obvious that his value should outweigh his liabilities tonight.

This would especially be true if Jose Calderon was out for Dallas tonight. Calderon is particularly pesky when it comes to nailing transition threes, and Westbrook is particularly bad when it comes to transition D. If he was replaced by the more drive-oriented Devin Harris, then it would do a lot for the Thunder's chances.

The Thunder should also do what they can to make sure that Shawn Marion doesn't have a repeat 19 point performance. Seriously. He started off the game 1-5, and somehow managed to finish it hitting 7 straight shots. The Matrix was a HUGE part of the Mavericks' second to third quarter run, and did a great job of using his high basketball IQ to take advantage of some Thunder switching and an exhausted KD. I highly doubt the performance will repeat himself, but I'd definitely watch how aggressive he becomes when KD looks visibly taxed.

Anyway, I hope that the youngsters can build on some of the offensive confidence they built last night (especially Adams), and I also hope that the Thunder seal this game instantly. Because if they're going to play us as the seventh or eighth seed this year, I couldn't stand chatter of them having a 2-1 regular season series lead.

Please Thunder, win. For my sanity!

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 107, Dallas Mavericks 105.

What do you think of tonight's game? Let us know by dropping a comment!