Setting the Table: Oklahoma City Thunder (Game 41)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on January 18, 2013 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

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The Dallas Mavericks (17-23) officially hit the midway point of their season as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder (31-8). Streaks are on the line as the Thunder come in to town riding a five-game winning streak. The Mavericks will looking to extend their season-best winning streak to five games. During the four-game winning streak, Dallas is averaging 109.8 points per game. Dallas has scored 100-plus points in all four games. Oklahoma City comes in on the sec…oh, wait, Dallas will actually face an opponent who has had some time to rest.

The will put the Mavericks’ new-found momentum to the test as the Thunder come in with the league’s best record. Winners of five straight games, including three straight on the road, the Thunder heads back on the road for the first game of a season-long six game road swing. The Thunder became the first team in the NBA to capture 30 wins. A win against the Thunder could really take the Mavericks’ confidence meter to a whole new level. It should be an electric atmosphere.

Here are the notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Thunder.

Series Notes:

The two teams met once in the 2012 preseason on 10/24/12 (at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan.), and the Thunder recorded an 88-76 win. The Mavericks have won 24 of the last 35 regular-season meetings with the Thunder franchise, but Oklahoma City has taken five of the last six, including the last three. The Thunder recorded a 111-105 overtime-win in the first meeting between the two teams this season at Oklahoma City on Dec. 27, 2012. Darren Collison scored a team-high 32 points for Dallas in the loss. Shawn Marion had 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Chris Kaman recorded 17 points and eight boards against the Thunder.

The Mavericks have won 15 of the last 19 meetings against the Thunder franchise in Dallas. 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, and Oklahoma City defeated Dallas 4-0 in the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs).

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. Roddy 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 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.

Three Keys:

1. Find a way to slow down Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant is averaging career-highs in assists, steals and blocks. Durant is scoring is on pace to become just the second player in NBA history (Larry Bird) to average 28-plus points while shooting better than 50.0 percent from the field, 90.0 percent from the free throw line and 40.0 percent from the 3-point line. The Mavericks held James Harden to 5-of-23 shooting in their last game. Led by Shawn Marion, Dallas will need a team effort in order to slow Durant down.

2. Keep the Thunder off the free throw line. Oklahoma City leads the league in free throw shooting accuracy after converting at an 83.6 percent clip (875-for-1,047) from the line. The best all-time free throw shooting percentage for an entire season in NBA history is 83.2 percent: Boston Celtics; 1989-90. Again, the Mavericks have to be careful and avoid getting in the penalty early and just giving free points away to the Thunder.

3. Protect the ball. Oklahoma City can be murder in transition, so live ball turnovers have to stay out of the equation for Dallas. They’ve actually done a tremendous job with their ball security as of late. After tying a season-low with nine turnovers against the Grizzlies on Jan. 12, the Mavericks recorded only 10 turnovers in each of their next two games vs. Minnesota and vs. Houston. Dallas recorded 10-or-fewer turnovers in three straight games for the first time since March 2010: Mar. 5 through Mar. 8. Dallas hadn’t recorded 10-or-fewer turnovers in consecutive games this season prior to the games on Jan. 12 and Jan. 14. The Mavericks have recorded 13-or-fewer turnovers in 10 of their last 12 games, including each of their last seven. Dallas is averaging 10.7 turnovers per game over its last seven games.

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.