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2011 NBA Playoff Odds: Thunder vs. Mavericks Preview | Pick

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL PLAYOFF Predictions: Thunder vs Mavs Series Preview

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#4 OKC Thunder vs. #3 Dallas Mavericks Series Schedule

Tuesday, May 17 at Dallas, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Thursday, May 19 at Dallas, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Saturday, May 21 at Oklahoma City, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Monday, May 23 at Oklahoma City, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Wednesday, May 25 at Dallas, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN*
Friday, May 27 at Oklahoma City, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN*
Sunday, May 29 at Dallas, 9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN*
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Odds to win NBA Championship: Mavericks +250, Thunder +500
Odds to win series: OFF
Season series: Dallas 2-1

A new champion will be crowned in the west, as the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder are ready to rock in the Western Conference Finals. It’s a battle of something old vs. something new as the NBA Playoffs continue Tuesday.

The Dallas Mavericks are hunting for their second NBA Finals appearance of the Dirk Nowitzki era, and the club is carrying all kinds of momentum into the semis. Dallas opened with a six-game victory over the Portland Trail Blazers—despite many observers taking Portland as a trendy upset pick. The Mavericks turned things up a notch in the last round, when they crushed the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in a four-game sweep—including a 36-point romp in the last game of Phil Jackson’s legendary career.

As always, Nowitzki continues to be the hero. The veteran forward has been a beast in the playoffs, averaging 26.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Nowitzki started somewhat slowly during the postseason, as he couldn’t quite find his shot. That’s changed in a big way, as he’s hit an incredible 50 of his past 85 field goals—a whopping 59 percent from the field.

The biggest concern coming into the postseason was whether or not Nowitzki would have enough help, especially at the offensive end of the floor. Jason Terry was rather erratic through the first chunk of the postseason, but he’s since settled down, especially over the past two games—Terry is 18-for-24 and averaging 27.5 points per game. He’s averaging 18.3 points per game over his past 10 games.

Beyond those two, just about everyone has chipped in occasionally. Peja Stojakovic was a major X-factor against the Lakers, averaging 12.5 points per game and hitting double figures in three of four games.

After needed just five games to dispatch the Denver Nuggets in the first round, the Oklahoma City Thunder battled through a seven-game war to put away the Memphis Grizzlies. Oklahoma City showed its mettle in the seventh and decided game, taking care of business and coasting to a 105-90 victory.

Most importantly, Kevin Durant stepped up. Durant is expected to carry this franchise on his slender shoulders despite being just 23 years old, but he had one of the worst games of his career in Game 6 against the Grizzlies. The Thunder could have finished off Memphis, but Durant was just 3-for-14 with 11 points, and Oklahoma City lost 95-83. The high-scoring superstar bounced back in a huge way in Game 7, scoring 39 points and adding nine rebounds. Lifetime Bonus at BetOnline

Despite the poor effort in Game 6, Durant has been mostly brilliant during the playoffs, averaging 28.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. While Durant can be counted on, Russell Wesbrook has been a bigger mystery.

The young guard has a healthy playoff scoring averaging 23.9 points per game—but he’s shot the ball very poorly (just 40.7 percent through 12 games). Westbrook brought a great all-around performance to the table in Game 7 (14 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds) but shot poorly once again, making just four of his 12 field goal attempts. If Oklahoma City is serious about a championship run, it needs a more efficient effort from Westbrook.

Defensively, Oklahoma proved it can step up when it needs to against the Grizzlies. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were dominating the competition through most of the playoffs, but Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and others did a great job toward the end of the series. They helped hold the Randolph and Gasol duo to just 29 points and 17 rebounds in Game 7—down from their combined playoff average of 37.2 points and 22.1 rebounds.

Oklahoma City undoubtedly has the best team, but Nowitzki looks like a man on a mission. He’s dying for his first NBA Championship and will do just about anything to get it. Dallas also has a much more experienced, veteran crew—which should be plenty rested after sweeping the Lakers. The Thunder, meanwhile, could be on fumes after barely getting past Memphis. Oklahoma City took a few more big steps forward this season, but it isn’t quite ready to contend for a title—not until Westbrook matures a little more.

Pick: Dallas in six

Ian Van Den Hurk has covered amateur and pro sports for years, including a successful run handicapping anything from football to mixed martial arts.

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About Ian Van Den Hurk

Ian Van Den Hurk has covered amateur and pro sports for years, including a successful run handicapping anything from football to mixed martial arts. Looking for more sports betting tips and expert sports handicapping articles from Ian V? We've got your back...