The Oklahoma City Thunder opened the postseason with a bang, defeating the Dallas Mavericks by a jaw-dropping 38 points.
OKC's defense was the fuel behind the lopsided win and it was very clear that the Mavs are outmatched and outclassed by the Thunder in this series.
However, even though Game 1 felt like a sweep in 48 minutes, the Thunder still need three more victories over Dallas before they can advance to the next round.
With that in mind I'll take a look at how I see the remainder of the series playing out and predict just when the series will finish between these two teams.
04/18 vs Mavericks
FORECAST: Sunny With Clear Skies
The only way Game 1 could've went any better is if the Thunder were able to keep their lead above 40 at the end of the game.
OKC did whatever they wanted and even overcame a first quarter slump without their defense falling off in the slightest.
While I doubt the Mavericks will ever shoot as poorly as they did on Saturday night again this series, I believe we have seen clearly that the Thunder are the better team.
The Thunder have Dallas on the ropes after one game and the absence of J.J. Barea and potentially Deron Williams to injuries is not going to help Dallas.
Another authoritative win at home would help OKC proclaim their dominance as one of the league's elite teams.
However, Dallas still has Rick Carlisle on the sidelines and if any coach can conjure up the right scheme to keep an undermanned team hanging around it's him.
OKC should be able to get to their spots on the floor, but they still have to make shots. And call me a cynic, but I doubt we see another stellar defensive performance from the Thunder. They've been inconsistent at best all year on defense and after the resounding victory in Game 1 it wouldn't be a surprise to see them slack off for stretches assuming their talent and offensive firepower would be enough to guide them to a win.
PREDICTION: Thunder 112, Mavericks 102
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Raymond Felton vs Russell Westbrook
Everyone's least favorite Maverick, J.J. Barea, has been ruled out for Game 2 with a groin injury. Deron Williams is questionable after his sports hernia worsened following Game 1. If Williams is unable to go that means the Mavs will possibly have to turn to Raymond Felton as their starting point guard. Felton had a great college career at UNC, but has yet to replicate any semblance of that in the NBA. As a stocky guard his strength has been his main advantage against opposing point guards. That won't be the case against Russell Westbrook. Expect OKC to try and once again get off to a fast start and I wouldn't be surprised if Westbrook post ups were seen right from the opening tip as Russ holds a height, speed and strength advantage over Felton and the other Dallas point guards.
04/21 AT Mavericks
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy with Potential Thunderstorms
If there is any game that Dallas has a shot at winning in this series, this is that game. Just on talent alone the Mavericks are an inferior team to Oklahoma City.
However, Dallas has one of the great fan bases in the league and owner Mark Cuban knows a thing or two about in-arena promotions and how to keep the home crowd entertained and involved in the game.
OKC has experienced the atmosphere the Mavs and their fans can produce at home--2011 Western Conference Finals--and it's going to be critical that those who have been there before relay the message to everyone on the team what to expect and the significance of playing through Dallas' adrenaline and scoring runs that are sure to come.
Winning this game would be a huge step for the Thunder and help them shed their title of being unable to finish when it matters.
Those open shots that couldn't find the bottom of the net in Game 1 will definitely fall for the Mavericks at American Airlines Center.
Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki, Mark Cuban are fighters to the end and you can expect them to give their best punch when the series goes back to Dallas.
PREDICTION: Thunder 99, Mavericks 105
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Serge Ibaka vs Dirk Nowitzki
The Serge Ibaka of old was in full effect for Game 1. Ibaka's sweet shooting (3-3 from the three point line) and interior defense (three blocks) was exactly what Thunder fans envisioned he would be by this point in his career. Ibaka probably had the biggest adjustment of any player to make with the change from Scott Brooks to Billy Donovan and it seems last year's calf injury may have zapped some athleticism from him too. If Game 1 Serge or anything remotely close to that is the Serge that shows up for the rest of this series the Mavericks will be cleaning out their lockers faster than you can say "Shark Tank". Dirk Nowitzki is the one player that has an advantage over the Thunder and even in the embarrassing Game 1 defeat it was Dirk's 18 point effort that kept Dallas from suffering an even bigger defeat. Nowitzki will have a game where he seemingly can't miss or is constantly being fouled according to the referees perspective. If Ibaka can limit the stretches where Dirk seems like he can't be stopped it bodes well for OKC.
04/23 AT Mavericks
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy and Overcast
After the letdown expect OKC to come out with even more of a feisty game than they played in the series opener. Especially after the media has spoken at length about how the Spurs are going to be well rested following their sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies.
KD and Russ will be looking to end the game as early as possible and I think it's fair to say we'll get a triple-double out of Russell Westbrook.
Dalls will most likely have shown its full hand in their attempt to steal a win away from the Thunder. This should make things easier for Billy Donovan and the coaching staff in terms of adjustments for the remainder of the series.
Winning this game and winning it big will be an even more impactful statement than the annihilation that occurred in Game 1 at Chesapeake Arena.
PREDICTION: Thunder 106, Mavericks 89
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Enes Kanter vs Zaza Pachulia
Sixth Man of the Year, (yes I'm going to speak this into existence) Enes Kanter is working with house money this entire series. Russ and KD will most likely hold down the scoring as the Mavericks don't really have an answer for either player, which means anything Kanter provides for OKC is a cherry on top. In his playoff debut Kanter posted an efficient 16-point, 13-rebound double-double. Rick Carlisle opted to start Salah Mejri and bring Zaza Pachulia off the bench. My opinion is that Carlisle wanted his best post defender to be on the court to keep Kanter in check. Yet, it didn't really help all that much in Game 1 as Kanter had his way in the paint. If Kanter can continue to be a physical presence in the paint and on the glass he may just sway the rest of the media to join the Enes Kanter Sixth Man of the Year bandwagon.
04/25 vs Mavericks
FORECAST: Sunny with Periodical Showers Throughout the Day
This series should be over by April 26th and if it continues in the same way as Game 1 did it may even be over before that date.
Either way this should be the final game the Dallas Mavericks play in the 2016 NBA Playoffs.
The Thunder can't afford to mess around and have this series unnecessarily extended when the juggernaut San Antonio Spurs await in the second round--the Spurs will most likely be getting extra rest as a sweep of the Memphis Grizzlies in their opening series seems all but guaranteed.
A sweep of Dallas would be a great momentum builder for OKC, however I think the Mavericks have enough fight and clever tactics to get at least one win on their home floor.
I've always believed that no matter the opponent the best case scenario for the Thunder this postseason was a quick five game series with little stress and pressure minutes placed on KD and Russ' shoulders.
Billy Donovan has shown he can handle the pressures of a winner takes all type of game and while that may not be the case when it comes to closing out the Mavericks it's a mindset that this team should have for every game it plays for the rest of the year.
PREDICTION: Thunder 115, Mavericks 104
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Kevin Durant vs Wes Matthews
Kevin Durant is listed at 6'10, Wes Matthews is listed at 6'5". In truth Durant is closer to 7' and Matthews is around 6'3. The nine inch difference in height added to the almost foot discrepancy in their wingspans (KD measures in at 7'4" and Mattheww at 6'8") means that Durant can shoot over Matthews with ease. We saw that to begin Game 1 as the Thunder jumped out to an early 9-0 advantage thanks to Durant's effortless scoring. If Dallas wants to believe they have anything resembling a chance of making this series competitive they're going to need Matthews to be on his game as a defender. Without the height and length to alter KD's shot, Wes is going to need to do his work early and pester and bother Durant in ways that only Tony Allen and Kawhi Leonard have proven possible.