Seeing as only nine teams in NBA history have been able to overcome such a deficit to win a series, and given Dallas' shorthanded roster, I think it's safe to say that OKC will advance to the next round--hopefully on Monday night.
With that said, let's use this space to take a look at the rest of the 14 teams in the playoffs. Last year's absence allowed us Thunder supporters to watch care free as the Warriors became the NBA's best team.
With this afternoon bringing the end to potentially two series I decided to use my powers of prediction to give you all the date of the game when every other first round series will reach its end. This way you can focus all your attention on OKC closing things out against those feisty Mavericks.
4/24 San Antonio Spurs AT Memphis Grizzlies
FORECAST: Cloudless Sunny Day
The San Antonio Spurs have held the upper hand on the Memphis Grizzlies ever since Memphis dropped to the seventh seed in the final Western Conference standings.
The Grizzlies have been without their two stars Mike Conley and Marc Gasol all series and despite all their "Grit 'N' Grind" they've only been able to keep the final deficit under double digits in just one game.
This season has had a feeling of an end of an era in Memphis; Conley is a free agent and Marc Gasol is the only core member committed to the team longer than 2 years. These Grizzlies, as assembled, have long been a thorn in OKC's side so there will be no complaints of Memphis decides to move on from this roster.
Meanwhile the Spurs have continued to look like the well-oiled machine that they are. Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan have seen it all before in terms of postseason play and they have wasted no time putting their foot on the throat of a weakened opponent.
After resting their players periodically during the season it looks like San Antonio will get another extended break before moving on to their second round matchup, most likely against the Thunder. Health is always the key when it comes to the Spurs success in the postseason and a sweep of the Grizzlies will help them stay that way heading into the next round.
PREDICTION: Spurs in 4
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Kevin Martin
With a new approach to the forecast, comes a new twist to the Doppler radar section. Instead of focusing on a key matchup I will instead be focusing on one player with either ties to the Thunder or that the front office should look to bring into OKC in the future. For these two teams that player is Kevin Martin. The former Thunder sixth man in OKC is now tagging along with the Spurs for a shot at a NBA title. Martin was a member of the fabled 2012-13 OKC squad that many believe is a Russell Westbrook torn meniscus away from having a NBA championship in their possession. Martin disappointed with his play during the Thunder's second round meeting with none other than these Memphis Grizzlies. Martin played his role well and was a class act during his tenure with the Thunder. It will be intriguing to see what type of role he plays if/when the Spurs and Thunder meet in this postseason.
4/26 Cleveland Cavaliers VS Detroit Pistons
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy With Showers On and Off Through the Night
The three games between these two teams have easily been the most entertaining battles of the entire playoffs. Sadly, this could be one of the few series that ends in a four-game sweep.
The Detroit Pistons haven't backed down a single bit from the team that has been crowned the Eastern Conference Champions all season long. The Cleveland Cavaliers, to their credit, have taken every punch in the mouth from the Pistons and responded by pulling out a victory.
The trio of Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James have been better than any other point since they first came together in 2014. Love has poured in 21.3 PPG and 11.7 RPG on 44 percent shooting from deep. Irving has 26.3 PPG (4th best in the playoffs) along with an insane 52 three-point field goal percentage. LeBron James has been his usual self with a robust 23 PPG, 7.3 RPG and 7 APG star line.
Stan Van Gundy has seemingly tried to implore the same game plan that he used with the Orlando Magic to oust the Cavs in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals. However SVG doesn't have the same steeple of shooters that he once had in Florida. Even without the perfect roster this team has fought too hard and played too tough to not at least get one victory on this series. Through sheer heart and determination Detroit will extend this series to five before bowing out in a rout on Cleveland's home floor.
PREDICTION: Cavaliers in 5
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Reggie Jackson
Everybody Hates Reggie, at least that's what it feels like ever since Reggie forced his way out of OKC at the trade deadline a season ago. Jackson is a very talented player and his confidence in his own skills had him believe he had outgrown his role with the Thunder. However, their are moments when you see that Reggie still isn't ready to embrace the role of a lead guard, in the sense of being a coach on the floor. In Game 1 it was a late technical on what Jackson believe was a no-call on a shot that would've cut the lead to two points. In Game 3 it was a turnover while attempting to push the tempo with the Pistons trailing by five points with under two minutes left. Jackson is going to have a long career in the NBA and will definitely be a starter for the foreseeable future. But the immaturity is still there a few more seasons under Van Gundy can either straighten that out or drive him out of another organization.
4/27 Golden State Warriors VS Houston Rockets
FORECAST: Persistent Rains Throughout The Day
The Houston Rockets have a shot to tie their series against the Golden State Warriors with a win at home on Sunday afternoon. After the way this year has gone for the Rockets, never did I once imagine that I'd be writing that previous sentence.
However, the slightest of injuries can change a team's outlook in a second--as the Thunder know well. Steph Curry's seemingly innocent ankle sprain has caused the superstar guard to miss the last two games of the playoffs. James Harden was able to carry his Roxkets to a crucial Game 3 win giving them even a glimmer of hope in this matchup.
But, Curry and Warriors head coach Steve Kerr have both said that Curry will be back on the court for Game 4. If Curry can be even half the player he was during his soon-to-be second consecutive MVP season this should be a quick ending to the first round.
I believe he'll be even better than 50 percent. It is my belief that Curry was held out as long as he was because Golden a state felt as if they could beat Houston without needing Steph.
While they probably could, we won't be finding out any time soon. As long as Curry remains healthy then the Warriors should have their way with the Rockets in the next two games. There is always the chance that Harden goes crazy--crazier than Game 3's 35 point, eight rebound and nine assist effort.
PREDICTION: Warriors in 5
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Jason Terry
Jason Terry will be 39 next season and he might choose to hang up the jersey when the Rockets season does reach its end. However, he has shown that he still has the ability to knock down shots and defend at least at a consistent if mediocre level. He signed only one year deal with Houston last offseason meaning he will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. If he is still looking for a one-year type of deal I think OKC should look into adding him. Now previous veteran signings/acquisitions haven't been kind to the Thunder--see: Caron Butler, Derek Fisher, Randy Foye--but Terry has played the role of off ball shooter on a contender dating back to the Dallas Mavericks championship run in 2011. Terry has been the player that the Thunder have long been searching for. With Cameron Payne losing minutes, unexplainably, to Randy Foye at the moment I'd much rather those minutes go to a player of Jason Terry's caliber than Foye's.
04/28 Atlanta Hawks AT Boston Celtics
FORECAST: Sunny With A Steep Temperature Drop at Night
There's an age old adage about postseason play that says a series doesn't officially begin until a team wins on the opposing team's court. That has yet to happen in the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks series. Both teams have held serve on their home floors; these are two teams with similar philosophies of play (ball movement and player movement on offense and stingy defense) and the first three games could help fill an entire coaching convention.
Yet, I believe this series will "begin" at the end. The Hawks have shown that they can get contributions from a multitude of players night after night. Meanwhile it took a playoff high 42 points from Isaiah Thomas for the Celtics to capture their first win of the series and first win under Brad Stevens in the playoffs.
Thomas is an all-star, but I don't know how many 40-point games he has left in his arsenal. The Celtics have been without their best perimeter defender and second best perimeter shooter, Avery Bradley, since a hamstring injury forced him to leave Game 1.
Atlanta needs to use Paul Milsap and Al Horford more effectively if they want to keep Boston at bay for the remainder of the first round. Mike Budenholzer has his team playing the best defense outside of Texas and as another old adage says, defense wins championships. In this case it's the Hawks defense that will win them this series.
PREDICTION: Hawks in 6
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Al Horford
Yes, I set the rules for the Doppler section and I am already breaking them. Horford is neither a former OKC player, nor will the Thunder be able to get him as a free agent this offseason. However, with all eyes on Kevin Durant in the upcoming free agency period, it is likely that Horford becomes the biggest name to change addresses this offseason. KD it seems will be resigning with the LeBron "1 + 1" contract and reenter free agency in 2017. Horford has played a big role in Atlanta's resurgence, yet it feels like he isn't being used to his full potential. He has added range on his jumper in Coach Bud's offensive system, but his back to the basket game will always be his bread and butter. If he continues to only have eight points in these playoff games there's a high chance that this could be the last go round for Horford and the Hawks.
04/29 Los Angeles Clippers AT Portland Trailblazers
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy With Gusts of Wind Exceeding 25 MPH
The series that many pundits believed offered the best chance of upset has so far been handled well by the Los Angeles Clippers. With Blake Griffin still working his way back from injury Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and the rest of the Clippers have kept their foot on the pedal.
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum finally found their rhythm in Game 3 and if their shots keep finding the bottom of the net the chance for an upset still remains.
Still, even with the Portland Trailblazers getting their best play from their two stars, it was still a close game right until the final buzzer.
CP3 knows all too well about the never getting out of the second round monkey that's been placed on his back. However with a potential second round meeting with the Golden State Warriors it doesn't look like this will be the year that he can put that to rest.
Portland has been the story of the season besides Golden State's historic 73-9 season. The Trailblazers were never supposed to be in the playoffs to begin with, taking the more talented Clippers to six games is a feat they should be very proud of.
PREDICTION: Clippers in 6
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Jeff Green
Jeff Green was part of the two-man tandem draft class in 2007 that saw the then Seattle Supersonics get rid of Ray Allen and welcome Green and Kevin Durant into the fold. Green for his part was a solid piece, but lost his spot as a starter to Serge Ibaka and was then traded for an interior presence in Kendrick Perkins. If Green were drafted in 2015 instead, when small ball is the NBA's flavor of the month, he possibly is the key cog in a small lineup featuring Russ, [Insert Wing], KD, Green and Ibaka that would be capable of going toe-to-toe with the much talked about death lineup of the Golden State Warriors. Since leaving OKC Green has more or less plateaued as a player. He'll have nights where his stats jump off the box score and other nights where you wouldn't even know he played in the game. Green is just another example of what could've been for the Thunder and more and more reason for the fan base to continue to have full faith in Sam Presti. His track record just about speaks for itself at this point.
04/29 Miami Heat AT Charlotte Hornets
FORECAST: Sun Showers With A High of 90 Degrees
The Miami Heat have gone from looking dead in the water after losing Chris Bosh to blood clots for the second consecutive season to now looking like the biggest competitor to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.
The addition of Joe Johnson and the continued improvement and development of Hassan Whiteside have brought this team right back to the top of the East.
However, it's been Luol Deng that has been the most important and most consistent player for Miami through three postseason games. Deng's ability to play either forward spot has been crucial to the Heat's newfound style of play.
The Charlotte Hornets brought their A-game in bringing the franchise its first postseason victory in 12 years in Game 3. In front of their home fans and despite an off shooting night from Kemba Walker Charlotte was able to bring the fight right to the Heat and culminated in a 16-point win.
A big game from Kemba Walker is overdue for the Hornets and once that game undoubtedly comes it is likely to be the last of the 2016 postseason for Charlotte.
PREDICTION: Heat in 6
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Jeremy Lamb
Jeremy Lamb is the piece of the Harden trade that will forever haunt the Thunder. Lamb had the tools and the skills to become the new sixth man in OKC for years to come. However a lack of opportunity combined win inconsistent play cut his time with the Thunder short. Scott Brooks instead opted to rely on veterans as opposed to playing Lamb--and Perry Jones III too--minutes that could've quickened their development. When Brooks departed and Billy Donovan was brought in, I believed it was going to be a make or break year for Lamb. Donovan has attempted to recruit Lamb to Florida and for Lamb, fresh eyes could've given him the chance to earn a spot in the rotation. Lamb's game did get fresh eyes on him, but those eyes were of Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford. In just over 18 minutes per game, Lamb averaged 8.8 PPG 3.8 RPG and 1.2 APG, while shooting 45 percent from the field and 31 percent from three. Through three postseason games with the Hornets he has one DNP-CD and averages three minutes per game in the two others. Maybe Lamb will be a case of a player who never reaches the potential others see for him. Maybe he has a breakout series or season in the near future. One thing that is know is that with Jeremy Lamb there's always been a maybe.
FORECAST: Potential Thunderstorms At Night
Outside of the Pistons and Cavaliers battles the matchups between the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers have brought the most entertaining series.
While entertaining is a relative definition (no game has been closer than 10 points) both teams have won a game at home and a game on the road.
The reemergence of Paul George has been simply amazing. He had a great season in his true comeback from a compound fracture in the summer of 2014, but in the postseason he has once again regained superstar status. If George can keep this play up and keep getting contributions like he did in Game 4 from the Pacers role players they will push the Raptors to the limit.
Toronto at one point looked like a serious threat for the one seed in the East. Since then they have once again found their playoff woes that saw them lose a Game 7 at home in 2014 and then swept by the lower seeded Wizards last year.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were nothing short of spectacular for most of the regular season, but have been up and down to say the least in the playoffs. Toronto will go as far as those two can take them, but with stout defenders in George Hill and Paul George it won't come easy. I think the Raptors finally get over their postseason hump with a clutch home win to move on to the next round
PREDICTION: Raptors in 7
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Patrick Patterson
If the unthinkable happens and by 2017 one of the Thunder's big three of KD, Russ and Ibaka does leave, Patrick Patterson is a name to pay attention too. Patterson is a free agent in 2017 and while he is nowhere near the level of Westbrook or Durant he could make an intriguing replacement for Serge. No one has the combination of Defensive and shooting prowess of Ibaka, but Patterson has developed himself into a very solid stretch four. He's a career 37 percent shooter from downtown and has shown that he is a capable defender. With the emergence of Steven Adams as a brute in the paint and the likelihood that Nick Collison will never retire OKC can afford to bring in someone who isn't as great a defender as Serge. However, Patterson would be a good addition even if all three players stick around. Pairing Patterson with Ibaka would give OKC a frontcourt that consists of three perimeter shooting threats, which in turn would space the floor for Russ' assaults of the lane.