When Oklahoma City and Dallas last met, the Mavericks stunned OKC 104-89. That night, March 5, belonged to the trio of Seth Curry (22 points), Dirk Nowitzki (18), and Harrison Barnes (17) —as Dallas prevailed 104-89.
Further, the Mavericks limited Oklahoma City to 40/0.91/70 overall shooting while frustrating Russell Westbrook (8-24 FG, 2-10 3PM, Flagrant-one) amid a decisive 21-4 game-clinching run.
However, since, the Thunder has won six-of-nine, as Dallas sports an even 5-5 ledger.
And while tonight’s competitive numbers again favor OKC, nonetheless, playoff-hungry Dallas faces a road-weary Thunder team .
As ten contests remain, Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavs sit 3.5 games behind #8 seed Portland.
This urgency, along with other intangible factors favoring Dallas, should make for an intriguing season-finale between these Western conference rivals.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (41-31 #6 west) vs. DALLAS MAVERICKS (31-41 #10 west)
- Time: 8:30 PM ET
- Venue: American Airlines Arena, Dallas, Texas
- TV: FSOK
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER KEYS TO VICTORY
- Show resolve after Houston setback: Oklahoma City will find its mental resolve firmly tested tonight vs. Dallas. Billy Donovan should reinforce his core principles before and during this final tilt of a back-to-back set.
- Stay composed, Russell: It is no secret that Westbrook tends to lose focus when angered. Following Russ’ March 5 run-in with Harrison Barnes, it’s best for Westbrook to eschew any remaining ill-will.
- Value each possession: In their last meeting, Oklahoma City greatly aided Dallas’ cause by committing 15 turnovers.
- Play a controlled, self-dictated pace: OKC attempted four-fewer shots on March 5 (82-86) than the NBA’s 2nd-slowest paced team.
- Commit to perimeter defense: Oklahoma City tends to struggle vs. smaller teams with multiple wing options. Dallas happens to boast a collage of capable perimeter scorers. OKC’s main focus tonight must be defending the perimeter.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
As mentioned, Oklahoma City suffered a conspicuous setback vs. Houston Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, after crushing Philadelphia, the Thunder has now lost two-of-three to elite opposition.
And while the best cure moving forward is a win, with tired legs, and a bad stylistic matchup, it may take a large effort from Russ to attain such success.
Finally, a defining staple of Dallas’ semi-recent mastery of OKC was superior energy. OKC may have to weather an early storm, while softening the Mavericks up, to ensure an effective late-push.
While Mark Cuban has made vociferous comments questioning Westbrook’s superstar status, the brash owner should focus on his team’s immediate issues.
Over their past six games, Dallas sports a 3-3 record, yet ranks 27th in OffRtg and 24th in DefRtg. Still, the Mavericks pose a threat to a weakened Thunder iteration — or any iteration, after recent wins over LAC and Washington.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS/INJURY REPORTS
The Oklahoma City Thunder has no injuries to report. Likewise, the Dallas Mavericks have no injuries to report.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
- Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
- Shooting Guard: Victor Oladipo
- Small Forward: Andre Roberson
- Power Forward: Taj Gibson
- Center: Steven Adams
- Point Guard: Seth Curry
- Shooting Guard: Wesley Matthews
- Small Forward: Harrison Barnes
- Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki
- Center: Nerlens Noel
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: -1
OKC enters American Airlines as a slight favorite vs. Dallas. This is partially due to the fact Oklahoma City boasts a +10 win advantage over their opponent. However, Dallas remains dangerous —especially when played on the second night of consecutive outings.
Tonight’s key matchup pits OKC’s perimeter defense vs. Dallas’ guards/wings. Honestly, a Westbrook-led group is likely to harbor no residual effect from Houston’s torrid shooting. Although, functionally, it would be uplifting to witness Oklahoma City put forth a strong defensive effort.
The Thunder is 14-21 on the road. Dallas is 21-17 at home, but has lost 3-of-4 from American Airlines Arena.