The Dallas Mavericks (12-16) head up I-35 to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-6). Okay, they didn’t drive up I-35 to Oklahoma City. The team went up to Oklahoma City on their fancy team plane but you get the idea that it’s not that far of a trip for the Mavericks. This will be game No. 2 for Dirk Nowitzki this season. He made his season debut at San Antonio on Dec. 23, after missing Dallas’ first 27 games recovering from arthroscopic right knee surgery. Nowitzki appeared as a reserve, he entered the game at the 6:28 mark of the first quarter, and recorded eight points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. Nowitzki came off the bench for the first time since Feb. 5, 2010 at Minnesota. The Mavericks went 12-15 in their first 27 games without Nowitzki in the lineup. Dallas is now 36-36 all-time when he doesn’t play.
Dirk is expected to come off the bench again against the Thunder as he continues to get back into game shape. Speaking of getting back into shape, the Mavericks are looking to get back in shape as they’re currently on a three-game losing streak. This is the fourth time this season they’ve been on a three-game losing streak. A loss against the Thunder would mark the Mavericks’ first four-game losing streak of the season.
Here are the notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Thunder.
The Mavericks have won 24 of the last 34 regular-season meetings with the Thunder franchise, but Oklahoma City has taken four of the last five. Oklahoma City took the 2011-12 season series with Dallas, 3-1. The Mavericks have gone 3-4 in their seven trips to Oklahoma City in the regular season. The Mavericks have won 15 of the last 19 meetings in Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki averaged a team-high 22.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 37.5 minutes in four regular-season games against the Thunder in 2011-12. He recorded his 8,000th career made field goal vs. Oklahoma City on Jan. 2, 2012. Shawn Marion averaged 11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 31.5 minutes in four starts against the Thunder last season. Vince Carter averaged 7.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 19.8 minutes in four games (two starts) against Oklahoma City in 2011-12.
The Mavericks and the Thunder have met in the postseason in each of the past two years, Dallas defeated Oklahoma City 4-1 in the 2011 Western Conference Finals; Oklahoma City defeated Dallas 4-0 in the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs. The two teams met in the 2012 preseason, at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan., on Oct. 24, and the Thunder recorded an 88-76 win.
It’s a Small World:
Mavericks guard Darren Collison and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook were teammates at UCLA for two seasons (2006-08) and reached the Final Four together both years. Mavericks guard Rodrigue Beaubois was originally drafted by the Thunder in the first round (25th overall pick) of the 2009 NBA Draft, before having his draft rights traded to the Mavericks in exchange for the draft rights to Byron Mullens (24th overall selection).
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks played for the Mavericks from 1995-96. Brooks and Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle were teammates, and roommates, on the CBA’s Albany Patroons in 1987.
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins played part of his rookie season (2003-04) under Mavericks assistant coach Jim O’Brien while O’Brien was the head coach of the Celtics. Perkins, the 27th overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies, had his draft rights traded to Boston along with Marcus Banks for the draft rights to Dahntay Jones (20th overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft by Boston) and Troy Bell. Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo and Thunder center Hasheem Thabeet both began their NBA careers in Memphis and were teammates on the Grizzlies for one-and-a-half seasons from 2009-11. Mayo was the third overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft and Thabeet was the second overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft
Thunder forward Kevin Durant attended the University of Texas for one year before being taken with the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks was the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers in 2008-09, Elton Brand’s first season with the team. Brand played half of the 2008-09 season under Cheeks before he was relieved of his coaching duties.
Instead of three keys, the Mavericks have three, possibly four, options to look at in regards to who will now be their starting point guard. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle alluded to the point that it’s a situation that appears to be ready to be cleared up. “I would say that at this point – how many games have we played? – I’m starting to get a feel as to who the guy is probably going to be,” Carlisle said to reporters on Dec. 26. “I’m going to give myself one more night to sleep on it.” Let’s look at the options.
1. Darren Collison: He was originally pegged to be the starting point guard after being acquired this summer. The point guard of the future label was bestowed upon him. Unfortunately, the future still appears to be off in the distance as Collison hasn’t gotten it going yet. He’s actually appeared to be a solid option for the team when he comes off the bench. That caters more to his game as he can be the change of pace guard off the bench. It’s possible he can still thrive as the starting point guard, but it depends on how well he can mesh with Dirk Nowitzki.
2. Dominique Jones: Honestly, he has appeared as the better option to start games. Even with his faults, he does a better job of setting people up for good scoring opportunities and he plays with an aggressive nature that his coach loves. The problem with Jones is that he can’t shoot the ball to save his life. What makes it even worse is the fact that he struggles finishing at the basket when he gets to the rim. Teams are going to be able to make the adjustment of staying back on Jones and take away his passing angles. The problem with that is that it makes it tougher for Jones to deliver passes, forces him to shoot (which he struggles with) and it takes away his advantage when he tries to drive to the basket.
3. Roddy Beaubois: It seems incredibly unlikely that Roddy can all of the sudden emerge as the starting point guard for this team. He hasn’t done much for the team this season, so it’s beyond unreasonable to expect that he could lead the team. Chris Douglas-Roberts remains as an outside the box option as the starting point guard. He is known more as a scorer, but he does have the ability to be a facilitator. That being said, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to thrust him into that spot. It appears he’s just a body that helps fill out the roster and could possibly help further down the road this season.
If the Mavericks select Collison, it’s because they’re hitching their wagon to him and just trying to figure out what they have with him. If they select Jones, they like what they see out of both Jones and Collison in their roles they’ve had as of late. If they select Beaubois or Douglas-Roberts, we’ll have to see if they’ve mistaken today for April Fool’s Day. My guess is they go with Jones, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Collison gets the nod.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.