Game: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks
Time: 8PM CST
Location: American Airlines Center, Dallas
Line: OKC -1.5
After an 0-4 start, the Thunder have rattled off 7 straight wins and seem to be coming into their own identity fueled by length and athleticism. This streak is currently the longest active streak in the NBA. The Mavericks on the other hand have struggled to start the season with a 3-8 record that has them almost last in the Western Conference.
As it stands, Russell Westbrook is currently (and not surprisingly) not active:
Russell Westbrook is currently listed as out for tomorrow’s game against the Mavs.— Royce Young (@royceyoung) November 9, 2018
At 3-8, Dallas is only one win out of the bottom spot in the West. What’s going on with the Mavericks?
MMB: First and foremost, the Mavericks are atrocious on defense. They allow opponents to shoot a league high 42.3 percent from three, and a lot of attempts aren’t close to being contested. Second, the Mavs are committing an abnormal number of turnovers compared to years’ past. Part of it is handing the keys over to the young guns, Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr, who commit 4.2 and 3.4 TOs per game respectively. But coughing up the ball 17.6 times per night as a team is a recipe for disaster.
What are they doing well?
MMB: There’s honestly not a lot. They have a league-average offense and below average defense. Their only win in the past eight games was against a dysfunctional Washington Wizards squad. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that they made runs against foes like the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors to keep things interesting. So at the very least, they’ll likely keep the Thunder on its toes.
Is there a player that Thunder fans should keep an eye on?
MMB: It seems obvious, but definitely keep an eye on Luka Doncic. The No. 3 overall pick has been the Mavericks best player since day one, averaging 20 points, 6.5 rebounds and four assists per game. A lesser known player to keep an eye on is Dorian Finney-Smith. He was undrafted a few years ago, plagued by injury last season, but he seems to finally be putting it together with an improved stroke (shooting 42 percent from three). He’s lengthy and athletic, so he might get some burn on Paul George. He might flash with a put-back dunk, but he does all the junk work to keep the Mavs in games.
What are the keys to a Dallas win on Saturday?
MMB: This circles back to my first answer, but the Mavericks have to limit turnovers and get off to a better start. Too many times this season have the Mavericks fallen in a hole early, exert all energy to claw back in but never quite make it over the hump. Those two things combined with giving effort on defense would keep the Mavericks in this game against a hot Thunder team.
As long as the Thunder can show up and compete tonight they should walk out with their winning streak still intact. However, playing bottom of the league opponents last year was not one of this team’s strong points but, as we’ve seen thus far, this team is far improved on last year’s version.
Who will win tonight’s game?
This poll is closed