Dallas v OKC (Preview)

I’m very excited about this series.  Love Dallas and OKC is definitely one of the more exciting teams out there.  Also, as of right now, I don’t actually know where this blog is going so this will be the first time I see my predictions, too:

OKC wins if: the Mavs truly are old and cannot keep up with Durrant, who does his best Ray Allen impersonation off-ball, and Westbrook, who pulls a Steve Nash and decimates Dallas’ D from within.  OKC has a great supporting cast around Durant and Westbrook, but there’s a reason it’s called the supporting cast.  Ibaka and Harden will have large roles to play in this series (on defense and offense respectively), but it does come down to the Thunder’s dynamic duo.

Dallas wins if: Dirk Nowitzki continues to be unguardable and the bench continues to produce offense.  I’ve watched many a Maverick game where Dirk has done his thing for a quarter then sat down, only to see the second unit fail to produce points, because they don’t have anyone who can create shots on a regular basis.  However, in the Lakers series, the Barea and Terry both managed to break down the defense and create shots for others.  Stojakovic, Kidd and Marion can all produce points, but they aren’t going to go 1-on-1 and be successful.

Matchups:

Dirk v anyone the Thunder throw at him.  The irony is that even though everyone knows that Dirk is almost always unstoppable, the pressure is entirely on him to be absolutely perfect.  Every modicum of Dallas’ offense runs through Nowitzki and if Ibaka or anyone else can even slow him down just a little, it will make all the difference.  Even in the blowout game 4 against the Lakers when Dirk scored “just” 17 point he had 4 assists and keyed a number of plays simply by drawing in the defense and kicking the ball back out.  Ibaka has the length, size and athleticism to play Nowitzki, but the latter is an offensive Houdini with sneaky athleticism and a brilliant offensive repertoire .  Dirk will get his, but will it be enough to carry his team back to the Finals.

Durant v Marion/Stevenson.  Durant has scored over 30 points 6 times already this post-season; he’s also grabbed 9+ rebounds 5 times and hit 3+ 3’s 6 times.  Problem is that there have been stretches during the Memphis series when he simply bogged down and stopped running.  Given, he played an unfathomable 57 minutes in one game, but the Thunder need him to score just as badly, if not more so, than the Mavs need points from Nowitzki.  Marion and Stevenson, then need to glue themselves to Durant and make him work for every point.  Just like Dirk, Durant will score, but fortunately for Dallas, Memphis showed that at least he can be slowed down.

Mavs 3’s v OKC’s 3’s.  Both teams make a ton of threes.  Right now Dallas is AVERAGING 9.5 per game and the Thunder 7.  The thing about 3’s, though, is that they are the streakiest shot in the game.  Right now the Mavs are shooting 3’s (.419) better than Westbrook is shooting everything (.407) so you can be sure that’s not going to last.  But if Dallas can keep hitting threes (they have 3 players averaging 2+ per game), they should be able to win the series.

Youth v Experience.  I don’t give too much credence to all the talk that’s going on about this issue, but I’ll throw them a bone.  The reason experience pays off is because of three things: confidence, poise, and drive.  “Experienced” teams have all three and up-and-comers often are missing one or two.  In this case Dallas clearly has the confidence (who wouldn’t after blasting the Lake-show); the poise (Dirk has been as cruel in late-game scenarios as anyone); and the drive (Terry, Nowitzki, Kidd, Marion, and Stojakovic have all had deep playoff runs and come up short).  Meanwhile, I do think the Thunder have questions in all three areas, which they will have to overcome.

Bench v Bench.  Both teams have bonafide stars so much of the difference is going to come down to the second units.  Both teams have good benches, but Dallas relies more on theirs for scoring (having the offensive force that is Chandler, Stevenson and Kidd in the starting lineup).  For OKC, containing Barea is essential (see Lakers, Los Angeles for example of how NOT to defend Barea) as well as getting a bit of scoring form Harden.  Outside of Durrant and Westbrook, the Thunder don’t have much by way of scoring, so the 4 or 5 points from Collison, Maynor, and Cook is important.  I wouldn’t hold my breath, but Peja’s resurgence could really put Dallas over the top.

Russell Westbrook v self.  Westbrook is OKC’s second best player; he also is sometimes their biggest enemy.  When Westbrook is active, breaking defenses down and setting teammates up, he’s a phenomenal asset.  But when he tries to do too much, he shoots an abysmally low percentage for an athletic guard, turns the ball over at an alarming rate, and maybe most detrimental to his team, takes away possessions from Durant.  The Thunder are 6-0 when Westbrook shoots 20 or less times; they are also 4-1 in games where he has 3 or less TOs.

What I would like to see happen: Dallas, fresh of it’s extended rest and it’s obliteration of LA, takes two at home with Peja’s and JET’s hot shooting carrying over.  Dirk’s pair of 25+ games seem barely noteworthy.  OKC then manages just a split at home before Dallas finishes them off in 5 in front of a raucous home crowd.  Westbrook turns the ball over at a shocking rate of 6/game and Durant fails to hit 30 all series.  Meanwhile, Dirk continues his obnoxiously good 50-60-90 percentages and all’s well with the world.

What will probably happen because of my luck: Rust becomes a reality and experience becomes more than a code word for “old.”  Dallas barely makes it out of the state with a split only to be demolished by the “youth” of OKC.  Durant averages 35 in a 6 game series as Greg Oden faceplants in a celebrity mud-wrestling contest somewhere in Eastern Europe.  Dirk gets his picture in Merriam-Webster… next to “choke.”

Actual prediction: Dallas simply wants it more than OKC and it shows as the Thunder fall into a 2-0 hole leaving Dallas.  Durant and the Thunder recoup and win game three, but the writing is on the wall as they fall in game 4 with Westbrook trying to do too much and the media harping on him incessantly.  Dallas closes out in 5 in impressive fashion with Dirk and JET leading the way.  OKC gets out-hustled for the second series in a row, but this time Dallas has the talent up and down the line-up to make the Thunder pay.

Yours Truly,

Basketblogger

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    • Josh Taylor
    • May 17th, 2011

    Good posts WuHao. I agree, this’ll be a good series. Durant and Dirk will most likely offset each other, I think Kidd will be overmatched by Westbrook’s athleticism but will be helped by the fact that Westbrook has turnovers in bunches. Sefalosha’s D will be key in guarding guys like Barea and Terry (or anyone other than Dirk that’s scoring), Chandler’s athleticism may give Perkins some trouble, but Perkin’s has handled guys like Howard well in the past. Help D by the Thunder on Dirk will be key for them to win, but I think the 7 game series that they just wrapped up over Memphis and the 4 additional overtimes that they played (plus their lack of experience and Dallas’ know-how and haven been here before) will be too much. This series will be atleast 6 very entertaining games none-the-less, as both teams are exciting and fun to watch, and Dallas is rested and confident after their sweep of LA.

    P.S. Any thoughts on the draft lottery? Jazz have two chances of landing the #1 spot, but so do the Cavs. Result, I think some crummy team like the Wizards that’ll get it and since they have Wall they’ll pass on Irving and take a big, possibly Enes Kanter (Spell check needed).

    • Becca
    • May 17th, 2011

    You’re funny.

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