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Mavericks vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer

Mavericks (9-4, 5-2 road) vs. Thunder (7-6, 5-3 home)

TV: FS Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 6:00 PM CST

Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.5 (2nd), Mavericks – 103.8 (14th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.9 (18th), Mavericks – 101.6 (11th)

The Oklahoma City Thunder have become the greatest 36 minute team in the NBA. There’s already a Per 36 stat for players, but if there was ever a First 36 stat for teams, the Thunder would likely be at or near the top of the league. And this really has nothing to do with whether Kevin Durant plays or not. The Thunder are plagued by this in either scenario. It’s almost like the team plays like they are supposed to for the first three quarters of the game, and then decides to revert back to old habits when the other team either makes their run or increases their lead.

While some of this can be laid at the feet of Russell Westbrook, who is probably the main culprit in reverting back to iso-related schemes when the game is on the line, a lot of the blame has to be placed on Billy Donovan. For someone who seemed to be in line with Sam Presti’s vision of analytics, he sure does struggle in seeing which 5-man rotations work in certain situations.

If the end of the third quarter line-up of Enes Kanter, DJ Augustin, Dion Waiters, and Kyle Singler/Anthony Morrow continues to hemorrhage points on the defensive end of the floor, why put them out there in every situation. Why not mix in an Andre Roberson for defensive purposes? Why not keep Serge Ibaka out there a little longer to help on the defensive (and offensive) end? One of the main complaints about Scott Brooks was his predictability with line-ups and rotations, and it seems like Donovan seems to be following suit.

This is the first of four meetings between the Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks won the season series 3-1 last year, with every Mavs victory being a tighly contested battle (MOV of 4.3). The only blowout in the series was the lone Thunder victory when they were almost completely healthy (Steven Adams was out with a broken hand that game).

The Opponent

The Mavericks come into the game with a 9-4 record, having won their last 6 games. This is a veteran-laden outfit that does not commit many mistakes. They are one of the surprises in the early going of this season, as many predicted the Mavericks would begin their slow decline this season. Instead, the pieces that were obtained in the offseason (Wes Matthews, Zaza Pachulia, and Deron Williams) have all exceeded expectation up to this point, which has helped the Mavericks get off to this quick start. They are middle of the road in most offensive and defensive stats, but find a way to win games. Dirk Nowitzki is having the most efficient season of his career, shooting 53% overall, 53% on threes, and 91% on free throws. Chandler Parsons is slowly making his way back from knee surgery in the offseason. The depth on this team gives them an advantage, usually going 11 or 12 players deep per game. The main beneficiaries of that depth are Devin Harris, Raymond Felton, JJ Barea, Dwight Powell, and Charlie Villanueva.

3 Big Things

1.Scoring in the Paint

While the Mavericks play good team defense, they struggle in protecting the paint. They rank 26th in blocks and don’t have anyone that would be considered a rim protector. This could definitely be a game where Westbrook influences the game by attacking the paint.

2. Serge Ibaka

I don’t know what is going with Serge. It seems like he is thinking too much out there, and as we all know, BBIQ is not one of his strengths. He’s the type of the player that needs to stick to his strengths. Ibaka should never dribble the ball. He should never make a basketball move other than shooting and jumping. Those are his strengths. Simple? Yes, but also very effective.

3. Hurry back, KD!

Last season wasn’t fun and these last 5 games have been a bit frustrating.