5 min read

Thunder vs. Mavericks: Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. Mavericks: Pregame Primer



Thunder (32-12, 11-7 road) vs. Mavericks (25-19, 13-7 home)

TV: FSOklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 7:30 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.2 (2nd), Mavericks – 102.6 (16th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 100.1 (7th), Mavericks – 101.9 (14th)

The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of 12 teams that have played in 44 games or more this season. Conversely, 11 teams in the league have played 42 games or less. While a difference of two games played may not seem like a lot to you and I, to an athlete who is in the middle of an 82-game grind, that rest time is precious. Even though the Thunder find themselves in the midst of a 6 game winning streak, the signs of fatigue are starting to creep up.

Kevin Durant, he, usually, of the 50/40/90 shooting triad, is shooting just 47/34/82 in the last 5 games. Now, that could be just normal stats playing themselves out over an 82-game season. Or it could be the initial signs of fatigue. Russell Westbrook shot 47% from the field and 30% from 3-point territory in the first 2 months of the season, while attempting an average of 7.5 free throw attempts per game. In January, Westbrook is shooting just 38% from the field and an anemic 25% from deep, while attempting just 6.5 free throws per game. The eye test shows me that he Westbrook is not getting the same amount of lift on his jumper as he did in the beginning of the season.

While these trends are concerning, its also comforting to know that Durant and Westbrook usually have these types slumps around the same time every year, before completely setting the NBA ablaze in February and early March. It’ll be interesting to see how head coach Billy Donovan handles the duo’s minutes for the rest of the season. One of the things that has happened the past two years has been the complete wear down of Durant and Westbrook as the season draws to a close in April. That wear down has been due to injuries sustained by both players during different seasons, but the fact still remains that to compete in the playoffs, you have to be as fresh as possible.

Series History

This is the third of four meetings between the Thunder and Mavericks. The Thunder have won the previous two meetings, both at home, in different fashions. In the first meeting, the Thunder were without Durant, but still managed to win 117-114 behind Westbrook’s 31 point, 11 assist double-double. In the second game, the Thunder met a Mavericks team that sat all of its starters due to the game being the second game of a back to back. The Thunder, as you would expect, obliterated the Mavericks 108-89. The only entertainment in the game was Westbrook getting tossed in the 2nd quarter after picking up two technicals in a 5 minute span for horseplaying with JJ Barea.

The Opponent

The Mavericks come into the game with a 25-19 record, having won their last two games. Their balance and depth is probably their biggest weapon as the season progresses. They have 9 players averaging at least 7 points a game. This depth allows them to rest different players at different times in the season to keep the fresh for the stretch run.

Dirk Nowitzki missed the last game with a swollen right knee and is questionable for tonight’s game. Near All-Star Game starter Zaza Pachulia is averaging the most double-double double-double in the league at 10.5 points and 10.8 boards per game. Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews have both progressed to normal NBA minutes status and are looking more and more like their old selves. The point guard by committee of Deron Williams, JJ Barea, Raymond Felton, and Devin Harris is deep enough to allow the Mavs to play small ball nearly the entire game. Off the bench, Dwight Powell and JaVale McGee allow the Mavericks to rest their front court starters for stretches throughout the game.

3 Big Things

1.Perimeter Defense

Nearly 45% of the Mavericks offensive output comes from mid-range (16.7%) and 3-point territory (44.9%). They have older point guards that can still get into the lane, but can’t really finish themselves. So instead, when they drive, Dallas point guards are more likely to dish it to a shooter than to take the shot themselves. The key is knowing this information and staying closer to the shooters than you normally would with a point guard that can finish in the lane

2. Bench Play

The Mavericks’ bench is definitely one of their strengths. The depth in being able to march out 4-5 guys than can easily score 10 points in a game is a luxury. The Thunder bench will have to contend with this depth. Cameron Payne has seen his shooting numbers dip in the past week, as he has struggled shooting the ball. Dion is Dion. Anthony Morrow has superglue on the back of his shorts. And Kyle Singler has greatly improved in the past week, but you have to wonder when the clock will strike 12 with his good play. Luckily, Enes Kanter is primed for a big game against the Mavericks. Javale McGee doesn’t have enough basketball IQ to be a consistent pick-n-roll threat and none of the Maverick point guards are quick enough to be a consistent driving threat. With the defensive aspect of the game being minimal, look for Kanter to assert himself on the offensive end of the floor.

3. Durant and Westbrook

I’m expecting big games out of them. The Mavs don’t really have great defenders at the wing and point guard positions. Plus, I’m sure Westbrook will remember what happened the last time the Thunder met the Mavs.

Thunder Killer – Opposing player most likely to have a breakout game against the Thunder:

Wesley Matthews – Matthews always seems to get up to play against the Thunder. In the past 3 seasons, he has scored at least 16 points in 5 of the 8 games he has played against the Thunder, with 3 of those games being 20 points or more. His ability to get hot from the perimeter can give the Thunder problems.