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Thunder vs. Mavericks Preview: Oklahoma City Set to Punch Up at the 7 Seed Dallas

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The Thunder have good odds of gaining ground on the struggling Mavericks.

Novak: the model teammate.
Novak: the model teammate.
WBB

Where They At: Thunder

After a couple tough losses and the latest, worst Kevin Durant news, the Thunder were down 20 to the Suns and looked to be ready to put the cherry on top of this #smh season. But Russell Westbrook and company (Steven Adams this time) pulled out a convincing win and inched closer to locking up the 8 seed.

Aside from the heart and guts that got the job done in Phoenix, we saw what OKC really needs: defense. Especially as they enter a gauntlet of Western powers fighting for seeding: Dallas, Memphis, Houston, San Antonio. Every game is crucial at this stage, and a win against Dallas would even their series split and put them within 2 games back of the Mavericks at the 7 seed. If OKC loses to the Mavs, that 7 spot is out of the question and the team will just be hanging on for the final spot.

Where They At: Mavericks

Dallas has been struggling mightily, with rumblings about both Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis engulfing the team of late. Since the Rondo trade, Dallas's elite offense has taken a blow, and their defense is still poor. Dirk Nowitzki is showing his age, and  the team of misfit parts just isn't hanging with the league's best team anymore. They've lost 4 of 5, and are basically a .500 team at this point.

The Matchup:

The Thunder are still great at home, and Dallas is close to falling apart--they haven't beaten a good team since--oh hey, it was OKC a couple weeks ago. In that game, the Thunder kind of melted down. Since then, Russ has been more steady, as have the new pieces around him. If Monta Ellis sits and/or is as ineffective as he has been, this is OKC's for the taking.

Furthermore, the Thunder still have a looong shot at the 7th seed. It's an outside chance, but it is there, says The Oklahoman's Anthony Slater:

If the Thunder and Mavericks finish the season with the same record, a conceivable scenario given the current landscape of things, here’s how the NBA’s tiebreaker rules would play out.

1. Head-to-head record: If the Mavericks beat the Thunder on Wednesday, they’d claim the tiebreaker because of a 3-1 record vs OKC this season. But if the Thunder win, it’ll be a 2-2 split. In that case, the criteria moves to the next step.

2. Conference record: If the head-to-head is a split, the tiebreaker goes to whichever team has a better conference record. Currently, the Mavericks are 24-20 against the West, while OKC is 22-23. That would seem to favor the Mavs. But if the Thunder were to catch Dallas over the last eight games, that conference record would naturally tighten up. And if that were to also end in a tie, it’d move on to the next step.

3. Record against playoff teams in own conference: Currently, the Mavericks are 8-15 against the other seven Western Conference playoff teams, while OKC is 5-15. A Thunder win on Wednesday (the only way it could get to this point) would change that to 8-16 for Dallas and 6-15 for OKC. After that, the Thunder plays four more games against West playoff teams, while the Mavs play three. Dallas holds the advantage, but it isn’t sealed. Since the two will end up playing a different number of games in this category, they can’t have the same winning percentage. The tiebreaker couldn’t move beyond this point.

Prediction: Oklahoma City 115 Dallas 102

2014-15 NBA Season Game 75
@
45-29
(Lost 2)

42-32
(Won 1)
April 1st, 2015
Chesapeake Energy Arena
7 PM Central Daylight Time
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports Southwest
Injury Report: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson, Nick Collison (Out), Monta Ellis, J.J. Barea (Doubtful), Dion Waiters (Probable)
This Season's Matchups: Dec. 28 (L 112-107), Feb. 19 (W 104-89), Mar. 16 (L 119-115)
Probable Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Rajon Rondo
Dion Waiters SG Richard Jefferson
Kyle Singler SF Chandler Parsons
Enes Kanter PF Dirk Nowitzki
Steven Adams C Tyson Chandler