WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF Predictions: Thunder vs Mavs Series Preview
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2011 WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS #3 DALLAS MAVERICKS VS. # 4 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Game 1 – Tuesday May 17, 9:00 PM (ESPN)
Game 2 – Thursday May 19 9:00PM (ESPN)
Game 3 – Saturday May 21 9:00PM (ESPN)
Game 4 – Monday May 23, 9:00PM (ESPN)
Game 5 * Wednesday May 25, 9:00PM (ESPN)
Game 6 * Friday May 27, 9:00PM (ESPN)
Game 7 * Sunday May 29 9:00PM (ESPN)
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Odds to Win NBA Title: Mavs +250 / Thunder +220
Odds to Win Series: Mavericks +200 / thunder +170
Season series: Dallas won 2 of 3 against Oklahoma City this season.
Not many predicted that the Mavs would be taking on the Thunder for the right to play in the NBA finals and what is interesting is that the Mavs swept the 2-time defending champion Lakers in the conference semis and the Thunder needed 7 games to dispatch of the 8th seed Grizzlies. The Mavs won 2 of 3 games against the Thunder this season and the one game they lost, which is the most recent one, Dallas superstar Dirk Nowitzki did not play.
The Mavs are at home for the first game of this series and they have had over a week off since sweeping the Lakers and they cannot come out flat against an athletic team like the Thunder.
Nowitzki is the key player to the Mavs in this series and so far in the playoffs he has been stellar averaging 26.5 ppg on 49.7% shooting from the field and he is shooting a 3-point FG% of 60%. He lit the Lakers up and now will take on another tall, but more athletic team that may create problems for the big German. Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka is a legit defender and he will get the unenviable defensive assignment on Nowitzki.
Also, one of the reasons the Thunder won Game 7 against the Grizzlies is the solid defense that Nick Collison played on Zach Randolph and the big and strong forward will also match up on Nowitzki. The key to this series for the Thunder may be how they play defense on Dirk.
It is no secret that the Mavs’ goal on defense is to contain Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but can they do it? One thing they have working in their favor is the fact that they are no longer soft inside with Tyson Chandler and he will need to come up big in this series. Westbrook is one of the fastest PG’s in the league and he will likely torch Jason Kidd, who will need help on defense. When Westbrook and Durant get into the lane Chandler will be there and will have to not give them easy buckets.
The Thunder struggled in the Memphis series when Durant and Westbrook simply settled for long jumpers and these guys need to attack the rim and get to the charity stripe. The Mavs have to keep these guys from getting out on the transition and if they can slow down the tempo of the game they have a big advantage.
The Thunder are also no longer soft on the interior since bringing over Kendrick Perkins and he along with Ibaka have to play solid in the paint, especially on the boards, and they cannot allow Terry, Nowitzki, and Shaun Marion from getting deep in the lane and scoring.
One of them main strengths for the Mavericks is their bench, especially Jason Terry, who is the 2nd leading score for the Mavs in the playoffs. They will need a good series from their 2nd unit guys of JJ Barea, Peja Stojakovic, Brendan Haywood, and Corey Brewer to move onto the finals.
On the other side of the coin Oklahoma City reserve James Harden has been the 3rd leading scorer for the Thunder in the post-season and the Mavs cannot allow him to have big scoring games, especially if they cannot contain Durant and Westbrook.
Man, this is a hard one to call. The Mavericks are not as athletic as the Thunder, but they have the experience and that tells me they have the edge. Nowitzki will not be stopped and Kidd will have a good series spreading the ball around and dishing out the rock. Westbrook and Durant will play well, but the Mavs will win this series and I think it will go 7 with Dallas winning Game 7 on their home floor.
Pick: Mavs in 7