The Dallas Mavericks (20-27) are looking for a split on their four-game road trip as they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (35-12). The Thunder is set to kick-off a three game home stand tonight beginning with a match-up against Dallas. Luckily for everyone, it appears the stars will be ready to go for the I-35 showdown. After sitting out the previous two games due to a right adductor strain, Dirk Nowitzki will give it a go in the game against the Thunder. Kevin Durant (right rib contusion) is also expected to play against the Mavericks.
It could be a special game for Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle if they are able to come away with a victory. Carlisle holds an all-time record of 499-352 (.586) and needs one win for 500 in his career. He will become the 28th coach in NBA history with at least 500 career victories. Carlisle is in his fifth season with the Mavericks and holds an all-time record of 218-141 (.607) with the club. He joined the Mavericks on May 9, 2008, after spending two seasons with Detroit (2001-03) and four seasons with Indiana (2004-07).
Here are the notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Thunder.
Oklahoma City has won four straight and six of the last seven meetings with Dallas. The Mavericks have faced the Thunder twice thus far this season and the Thunder have taken both games in overtime (111-105 at Oklahoma City on Dec. 27, 2012, 117-114 at Dallas on Jan, 18, 2013). Darren Collison is averaging 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.5 steals and 35.5 minutes in two starts against the Thunder this season.
The Mavericks have dropped three straight on the road against the Thunder. The Mavericks have gone 3-5 in their eight trips to Oklahoma City in the regular season. 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).
It’s a Small World:
Mavericks guard Darren Collison and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook were college teammates at UCLA for two seasons from 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 (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.
1. Whatever it takes, find a way to slow down Kevin Durant. The Thunder scoring machine has averaged 46points & 8.5 rebounds in two games against Dallas this year. That includes a career-high 52 points in the game in Dallas on Jan. 18. For the longest time, Durant’s lowest scoring average against any team was against the Mavericks. It appears he’s broken through the wall and is ready to smash them on a consistent basis. It’s an all hands on deck task when it comes to guarding Durant. Shawn Marion, Dahntay Jones, Vince Carter, Jae Crowder, they all must be ready to give Durant fits.
2. Run through DMC: Darren (Michael) Collison has been on quite a tear since Dirk Nowitzki returned to the lineup on Dec. 23. Collison scored in double figures in a career-best 16 consecutive games from the 23rd through Jan. 25 (his previous high double-figure scoring streak was 15 straight games from Feb. 5 through Mar. 8, 2010). Since the game at San Antonio on 23rd, he is averaging 14.4 points while shooting 53.2 percent from the field, 53.8 percent from 3-point range and 92.9 percent from the line. Collison has scored in double figures in 18 of his last 20 games. He is shooting career highs in all three categories this year: 48.6 percent from the field, 41.3 percent from 3-point range and 89 percent from the line. Add it up with how Collison has fared against the Thunder this year, let it all run through him.
3. See how Dirk fares. Dirk Nowitzki is only averaging 13.5 points on 26.7 percent shooting in two losses to Oklahoma City this season. Before taking two games to recover from his injury, Dirk tallied a season-high 26 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes at Portland on Jan. 29. He led Dallas in scoring for the second straight game (fifth time this season). With a long defender in Serge Ibaka and a physical defender in Nick Collison, it will be interesting to see how Dirk looks in his first game back.
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.