- When: Tuesday, 25 March 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
- Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
There’s a couple different ways to look at this game:
1. The Thunder will be out for revenge. In their previous meeting, the Mavericks humbled the Thunder, in Oklahoma City, to the tune of a 23 point drubbing, 109-86. That was the beginning of the Russell Westbrook Rest Experiment (RWRE). The Thunder came out a little flat and never recovered from a bad start. The Thunder were down three starters and the 3’s kept falling for the Mavericks (13-24 3pt FG, 54.2%). Needless to say, it was one of the worst losses at home since the team became a playoff contender 4 seasons ago. This time around, though, they have Russell Westbrook in tow and a little momentum gained from a 4 game winning streak.
2. The Mavericks are fighting for their playoff lives. The Mavs were given one of the greatest gifts afforded to a team looking to secure one of the final spots in the playoffs: an 8-game home stand. They are 2-2 through the first 4 games and have slipped down to the 9th spot by virtue of a tie-breaker with Phoenix. If the Thunder come out flat-flooted, they may just run into a desperate animal needing to win as many games as possible to secure a playoff seed.
3. The Thunder are fighting for their own playoff seeding. A lot like last season the Thunder find themselves behind the Spurs with about 12 games to play. They have one more meeting with the Spurs in early April at home. If the Thunder could position themselves to be a game behind the Spurs when the meet on April 3rd, then they could take over first place, not only in the Western Conference, but also for the entire playoff run if they make it to the Finals. OKC already owns the tie-breaker by virtue of winning the first 2 games against the Spurs this season and San Antonio has a tendency to rest its players the final month of the season.
The Mavericks currently find themselves outside of the playoff race in the Western Conference with the same record as the 8th seeded Phoenix Suns, at 42-29. Phoenix owns the tie-breaker by virtue of having the better conference record. The Mavs are a good offensive team, scoring 104.6 points a game, but rank near the bottom third of the league in terms of opponent’s points per game, allowing 102.3. In their current home stand, the Mavs are 2-2, with defense being the main culprit. In the 2 wins, they only allow 97.5 points per game, while in the 2 losses, they’ve allowed 115 points per game. Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis do the heavy lifting on the offense, but Jose Calderon is the one who sets it in motion. Calderon, who took a hit to the face that limited him to one minute in their last game, will play in this game. The Mavs boast a veteran-laden bench that can give teams fits with players like Devin Harris, Vince Carter, and Brandan Wright.
Probable Starting Line-ups
- PG – Jose Calderon
- SG – Monta Ellis
- SF – Shawn Marion
- PF – Dirk Nowitzki
- C – Samuel Dalembert
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Andre Roberson
- SF – Kevin Durant
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Steven Adams
3 Keys to the Game
1. Perimeter Defense – Anytime the Thunder made a push in the last game, the Mavs usually answered with a 3-pointer to keep the Thunder at bay. The Thunder allowed the Mavs to shoot over 50% from 3-point territory in the last game, which would make it difficult for any team to win.
2. Bench help – While the Thunder bench was a bit muted in the last game by injuries, there should be no reason why the Mavs’ bench outscored the Thunder bench by 16 (38-22). The Thunder will face more of the same tonight, with Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins still out. Having Reggie Jackson back in his familiar 6th man role should help the bench unit out.
3. Russ’ knee – The MRI performed on Saturday revealed no further damage to Westbrook’s right knee. That’s the good news. But we are kind heading into unchartered territory as a fan base where we grimace every time Russell takes a tumble or grimaces in pain. Here’s to hoping he suffers no further scares the rest of the season (regular and post).