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Durant won't return as slumping Thunder meet Mavs

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Can OKC defend the three this time?

Anything is possible.
Anything is possible.
William Bennett Berry

UPDATE: Durant is out.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Mavericks are preparing for tonight's game as if KD will be playing in it. Undoubtedly, Durant will be back on the court for the Thunder soon, as he recovers from a minor hamstring injury. During Friday's game, Chris Broussard claimed that Durant could have played if it were the playoffs. At this point, it's really a question of whether Durant is fully healed.

Regardless of whether KD plays or not, the Dallas Mavericks are in the midst of quite the six game win streak. The Clippers are by far the best opponent the Mavs had to beat during that streak, but it's still impressive for a team many thought would miss the playoffs. The secret has been good health. No core rotation player has had to miss more than two games so far. Given that seven of the Mavs core players are 31+ years old, that's quite the feat.

But there's other reasons for the Mavs success, too. Take Wes Matthews, who scored 25 points in the victory against the Clippers. Matthews is struggling to fit in most of the time, but can become a definite X-Factor. Zaza Pachulia is another new player helping out the Mavs' cause. Pachulia is seeing the best rebounding numbers of his career, along with his usually efficient offensive numbers. Lastly, there's been a big boost from the young guns, Dwight Powell and Justin Anderson. Powell is an athletic bench big that grabs boards, fouls, dunks, and occasionally shoots. Anderson is quick small forward that can charge to the rim in transition, as well as catch and shoot.

You also can't ignore the Mavs two offensive pillars. The first is Dirk Nowitzki, who still manages to lead his team's offense despite being 37 years old. Dirk's a 7 footer that can shoot threes, and the Thunder have definitely had problems keeping up with him on the perimeter in the past. Deron Williams is the over offensive pillar. Williams will score slightly less than Dirk, but has the ball in his hands a bit more. Beware Deron's threes around screens!

Needless to say, the Thunder are going to need a lot of defensive help if they want to win this one. Without Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City has turned into a team that can't defend the three at all. On Nov. 20th, the Knicks shot 60% from three. On Nov. 16th, the Grizzlies shot 71% from three. On Nov. 15th, the Celtics shot 39% from three, with most of that coming in the fourth quarter. All of those games were losses for the Thunder, and it's hard for me to see this one turning out well.

Offensively, the Thunder are a bit of a disaster as well. Russell Westbrook is just as effective as he's always been, and so is Enes Kanter. But everyone else seems to be having issues. Dion Waiters is hijacking possessions for his own purposes. Serge Ibaka is missing shots, and committing mental mistakes. Adams and Roberson are getting lost, and are not put in a position where their limited skillsets can succeed. Morrow and Singler are missing shots like crazy. Augustin is seeing the ball less and less. Collison is not producing any points. And, worst of all, Mitch McGary isn't seeing the floor.

Most fans aren't happy with the Thunder's middling record at this point, and are quick to point the finger to Coach Billy Donovan. The general thought is that Donovan's not doing enough to reign in Westbrook, and that the offense is becoming way too simple and stagnant. I think that both of these criticisms are valid, but I don't necessarily think that they're fair. Donovan simply hasn't had enough time with the team to get his system down, and Westbrook is making smart decisions. Furthermore, I feel like Donovan's rotations have been on point.

In any case, the Thunder will have to score a ton of points to stand a chance tonight. And I just don't think they're equipped. Theoretically, the Mavericks have the defensive weaknesses to make the Thunder's offense viable. Westbrook can run past Deron Williams. Kanter can shove Pachulia out of the post. But I just haven't seen the level of ball movement from the Thunder that would make me confident about their ability to score.

And, ultimately, I don't think KD will play today. But if he does, then OKC would actually have a narrow victory.

Prediction: Dallas Mavericks 118, Oklahoma City Thunder 95.

What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!

2015-16 NBA Season Game 14
(Won 6)

(Lost 1)
November 22nd, 2015
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
6 PM Central Daylight Time
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network Southwest
Injury Report: JaVale McGee (Out), Kevin Durant (Questionable)
Last Season's Matchups: Dec. 28 (L 112-107), Feb. 19 (W 104-89), Mar. 16 (L 119-115), Apr. 2 (L 135-131). Pre-Season: Oct 13 (W 100-88)
Probable Starters
Deron Williams PG Russell Westbrook
Wesley Matthews SG Anthony Morrow
Chandler Parsons SF Andre Roberson
Dirk Nowitzki PF Serge Ibaka
Zaza Pachulia C Steven Adams