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Game 4 Preview: Thunder face crucial test at the Mavericks

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With San Antonio sweeping Memphis, the Thunder can't afford to waste any more time in the first round.

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Let my Westbrook be Westbrook!
Let my Westbrook be Westbrook!
W. Bennett Berry

The Thunder had historically large victories over the Mavericks in Games 1 and 3. Game 2 was a loss at home, but it involved KD missing the most shots of the year. That has to make Thunder fans feel confident moving forward. But Game 4 is still pivotal. A bad slip up tonight would mean that the Mavs would even up the series heading back to OKC. With San Antonio nearing a sweep of the Grizzlies, the Thunder must sweep the remainder of their series with the Mavericks in order to be competitive.

It probably won't be too difficult for the Thunder to close this series out. In the one game where the Thunder did fail, they had serious offensive problems. It wasn't just KD, though. Russell Westbrook was taking too many threes, Serge Ibaka faded from the game entirely, and Enes Kanter got no opportunities. Game three saw all three players adjust their games and bounce back. Even Dion Waiters got some burn, and had a great night as a spot-up three point shooter.

Still, I do see the Mavericks being stubborn and making this one competitive. The Thunder don't really have a way to stop Dirk. The Thunder's defense against Dirk is pretty physical, allowing him to get to the rim and use picks quite easily. Furthermore, when Kanter is in the game, the Mavericks speedier guards don't really have much trouble getting to the rim. I don't really see either of those things changing, so if the Mavericks start hitting threes, this could become a fourth quarter shootout.

There aren't many surprises left in each coaches arsenal at this point. Rick Carlisle is pretty much locked into playing a guard-first lineup, and will occasionally throw Mejri out at center for some additional rim protection. The Thunder have sealed themselves into a 9 man rotation, with Kanter, Collison, Waiters, and Foye coming off the bench. Singler appears to have been shelved for later series, while Morrow only comes on in spot minutes. On my end, I'm mostly hoping that Kanter and Westbrook get a lot of time together. Also, Kanter at power forward probably won't work against the Mavericks.

In my opinion, the players to watch tonight will be Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams. Matthews has looked terrible this series, and may be dealing with an injury issue. But Matthews found some rhythm from three point territory during Game 3. And three point shooting will be absolutely essential to beating the Thunder. That's why I also think Deron Williams, who didn't play in Game 3 and is questionable for tonight, could also be a big force. Williams directly matches up with Westbrook, so if he could fire off a few quick threes on Westbrook's more sloppy possessions, it could turn the tide of this game.

If this game does go to crunch time, I'd like the Thunder to involve Serge Ibaka and Dion Waiters in their offense. I feel like a broken record saying it....but it had to be said.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 117, Dallas Mavericks 107.

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

2015-16 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Quarter-Finals Game 4
@
55-27
(Thunder Lead Series 2-1)

42-40
(Thunder Lead Series 2-1)
April 23rd, 2016
The American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
7:00 PM Central Daylight Time
TV: Entertainment Sports Programming Network, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, KTeXAs (CBS KTXA-TV 21 in Dallas)
Injury Report: Mitch McGary (Questionable), Nazr Mohammed (Questionable), Deron Williams (Questionable), Chandler Parsons (Out), Jeremy Evans (Out)
The Playoff Matchups: Game 1Game 2Game 3
Probable Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Deron Williams
Andre Roberson SG J.J. Barea
Kevin Durant SF Wesley Matthews
Serge Ibaka PF Dirk Nowitzki
Steven Adams C Zaza Pachulia

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