Seeking chemistry, the Oklahoma City Thunder attempt to revitalize a languid three-game road trip tonight vs. the playoff-hopeful Dallas Mavericks.
Following Oklahoma City’s seamless trade-deadline reboot, turbulence has arisen. Presently, Billy Donovan’s bunch hauls a curious two-game losing steak even as Russell Westbrook averages 46.5 ppg and 12.5 rpg (though 9-28 3PM) in those outings.
As OKC has fallen in succession to sub .500 Portland and Phoenix, personnel questions abound. Most notably, Steven Adams’ lack of offensive inclusion echoes within Thunder Nation.
In Adams’ previous two contests, Oklahoma City’s third-leading scorer (11.9 ppg) has just seven FGA’s while logging 54 minutes of court time.
During that time, the Thunder has ceded 232 points from groupings which combine for 46 wins against 77 losses. This downturn comes after four-consecutive victories, and a notable mastery of Utah.
Had OKC stumbled initially with Gibson and McDermott, perhaps this almost ineluctable post-trade adjustment-period would be less conspicuous.
However, the Thunder is 3-2 with its new-look roster. And following this union’s short-lived honeymoon, a fast resolution is needed as 20 games remain.
Even so, tonight, Oklahoma City seeks a step toward renewed cohesion while attempting to repeat an earlier 109-98 win vs. a Mavericks iteration which has defeated three of its past four opponents.
And with triumphs vs. New Orleans, Miami, and most recently Memphis, fast-rising Dallas guard Seth Curry is reinforcing his own NBA path.
In Curry’s past three outings, the 26-year-old guard has averaged 24 ppg while shooting a stellar 55/63/100 clip.
Meanwhile, as the Mavericks cling to their playoff lives, Curry and newly acquired Nerlens Noel have infused a Mavericks roster —which still boasts the creditable foursome of Yogi Ferrell, Wes Matthews, Dirk Nowitzki, and Harrison Barnes— to compliment a respectable defense.
Tonight, Oklahoma City must dig deep to prevent Rick Carlisle’s squad from reaching five-consecutive wins at American Airlines Arena.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (35-27 #7 west) vs. DALLAS MAVERICKS (25-36 #11 west)
- Time: 8:30 PM ET
- Venue: American Airlines Arena, Dallas, Texas
- TV: ESPN, FSOK
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER KEYS TO VICTORY
- Limit the young duo of Yogi Ferell and Seth Curry: Westbrook and Abrines must competently defend this emerging tandem as Andre Roberson will find himself occupied with 20 ppg-scorer Harrison Barnes.
- Use superior pace, and depth to tire Dallas late: Even if Wesley Matthews (15 ppg) returns, Oklahoma City still holds a decided depth advantage over Dallas. The best way to exacerbate this upper hand is by speeding up the contest.
- Take intelligent shots/limit careless three-point attempts: Of late, Oklahoma City’s shot selection has proven suspect. A healthy trend of intelligent offensive play should emerge vs. Dallas this evening.
- Play under control, Russ: Obviously, this is an extension of the previous key as Westbrook (28 3PA’s last two games) dictates much of the Thunder offense. Additionally, OKC is 1-4 in its last five games when Russ attempts 10+ three-pointers.
- Stick tight to Dallas on the perimeter: The Mavericks rank both sixth in 3PA and makes on the season. The Thunder should game-plan accordingly.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Coming off the team’s worst outing of the season Friday night, OKC is in desperate need of a re-commitment to its core principles.
And as Victor Oladipo (back) will again sit, it is imperative Oklahoma City’s back court of Westbrook and Abrines defend well.
Furthermore, an OKC victory likely hinges upon both Westbrook’s floor-game and his dedication to performing well on both sides of the court.
Another major element in OKC’s bid for success resides in which Thunder iteration appears. If the team that romped Utah emerges, Dallas is in for a long night.
However, if an uncertain and ineffective OKC bunch, as seen in its past two games, takes the court this evening, Dallas may record a fourth win in five games.
Also of note is the connection between McDermott’s increase in minutes (35, 37, 6-20 FGM, 1-of-10 3PM) and productivity decrease through Oklahoma City’s winless drought.
As the season approaches its stretch run, Dallas is admirably fighting for the eighth, and final, playoff seed.
Though regardless of where this Mavericks team finishes, it has showcased emergent young talent in Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry. Furthermore, Dallas’ smart deal to acquire Nerlens Noel for Andrew Bogut and Justin Anderson provides the Mavs with a defensive anchor for years to come.
Tonight, if the Maverick’s blend of veteran poise and youthful exuberance meshes in front of a raucous home crowd, this contest could become a dogfight for Oklahoma City.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS/INJURY REPORTS
The Oklahoma City Thunder list Victor Oladipo (Back) as out for tonight’s contest. The Dallas Mavericks list J.J. Barea (calf) as out vs. Oklahoma City. The Mavericks also list Wesley Matthews (hip) as questionable.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER:
- Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
- Shooting Guard: Alex Abrines
- Small Forward: Andre Roberson
- Power Forward: Domantas Sabonis
- Center: Steven Adams
- Point Guard: Yogi Ferrell
- Shooting Guard: Seth Curry/Wesley Matthews
- Small Forward: Harrison Barnes
- Power Forward: Dirk Nowitki
- Center: Nerlens Noel
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: +1
Due to Oklahoma City’s recent mishaps, combined with Dallas’ strong performances, the Vegas oddmakers place OKC as slight underdogs for tonight’s meeting.
Tonight’s key matchup pits the OKC backcourt against Dallas’ guard corps. As touched upon, the manner by which Westbrook and Abrines exert themselves defensively will be paramount to whether Oklahoma City returns home having lost three-straight road outings.
Oklahoma City is 12-19 on the road. Dallas sports a 17-14 home record.