In their first 2016 playoff game against the Thunder, the Mavericks looked seriously bad. Dirk Nowitzki had an efficient shooting night, but nobody else did. Dirk was the only player who could create his own shot, and he could only do it half the time. Meanwhile, Steven Adams was shutting down all forays to the rim, and everyone was doing a good job of covering their individual matchup. The Thunder were quicker, more athletic, and happened to do well from three. By the time the whole thing was through, the Thunder had won a playoff game by the largest margin in franchise history. Meanwhile, the Mavericks had endured their second-worst playoff loss in franchise history.
Things might get even worse for the Mavs. J.J. Barea left during the second quarter of Game 1 with an aggravated groin. Barea is questionable for Game 2. David Lee, who missed the entirety of Game 1, is questionable for game 2 with plantar fascitis in his right heel. If Barea and Lee were to play, they could add some serious scoring punch to the Maverick bench. Barea is too quick for the Thunder's backup two guards, and David Lee could wreck havoc on a stretch four. But if neither play, I'm betting the Thunder's bench will have a serious advantage.
In terms of lineups, I'm expecting Carlisle to try anything and everything. Carlisle's main M.O. will be playing two or three point guards in the hopes of bettering ball movement. But if the Mavericks are to succeed, they'll need some production out of guys like Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews. These are the guys who establish the Mavs shooting presence from outside, and they're needed to open up things for the Mav offense.
Defensively, the Mavs will have to work at shutting down either Enes Kanter or Serge Ibaka. Durant and Westbrook really have no defensive equal on the Mavs, and are going to get their points no matter what. But Kanter can be stopped by a big body (like Mejri), and Ibaka can be stopped if he's covered. Both of these things are easier said than done, and might reduce the number of forced turnovers. But the Mav defense we saw on Saturday had no teeth.
What do the Thunder need to do to keep winning? Stay the course. Nick Collison is questionable to play tonight, with a chest contusion. Cameron Payne is probable, with a hip injury. But both of these guys are bit players at best. I could see both of them impacting the game, but it's hard to see the lack of either player tipping the balance.
I'd also recommend that the Thunder stay matched up with the Mavericks, because Carlisle is especially good at exploiting weird lineups. OKC should also refrain from double-teaming Dirk, since he's the only one who can create offense for Dallas. As long as the Thunder keep defending the rim and running out for threes, this should be a relatively easy win.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 114, Dallas Mavericks 92.
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!
|2015-16 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Quarter-Finals Game 2|
|April 18th, 2016|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|7:00 PM Central Daylight Time|
|TV: Turner Network Television, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, KTeXAs (CBS KTXA-TV 21 in Dallas)|
|Injury Report: Cameron Payne (Probable), Nick Collison (Questionable), Mitch McGary (Questionable), J. J. Barea (Questionable), David Lee (Questionable), Chandler Parsons (Out), Jeramy Evans (Out)|
|The Playoff Matchups: Game 1|
|Deron Williams||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|J.J. Barea||SG||Andre Roberson|
|Wesley Matthews||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Dirk Nowitzki||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Salah Mejri||C||Steven Adams|