Setting the Table: Oklahoma City Thunder (Game 66)

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on March 17, 2013 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

8551376479_4f2c045738_z

The Dallas Mavericks (31-34) are looking to move to two games below .500 for the first time since they were 12-14 on Dec. 20. The Oklahoma City Thunder (49-17) stand in the way of the Mavericks’ pursuit of the 8th seed in the Western Conference. The game marks the first night of a back-to-back for the Mavericks. The Mavericks are 2-11 in the first half of a back-to-backs this season. They went 7-15 in the first half of back-to-backs last season.

Dallas will certainly need to bring their defensive disposition against the explosive Oklahoma City squad. The Thunder have scored 113.3 per game and shot 76-for-91 (83.5 percent) from the free-throw line against the Mavericks this season.

Shawn Marion, who led the team with 23 points in the January loss, is expected to miss his sixth straight game because of a strained left calf.

With the Mavericks trying to secure a playoff spot for the 13th consecutive season, they need to show they can beat quality teams. They’ll have their chance in the Sunday showdown with the Thunder.

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

Series Notes:

Oklahoma City has won five straight and seven of the last eight meetings with Dallas. The Thunder will look to sweep the 2012-13 season series with a victory in Dallas. The Mavericks
have won 15 of the last 20 meetings with the Thunder franchise in Dallas, but the Thunder has taken four of the last five (including the last two). The Mavericks and the Thunder have
met in the postseason 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.

Thunder guard Derek Fisher played in nine games (all starts) for Dallas this season, averaging 8.6 points and 3.4 assists in 25.4 minutes.

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.

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.

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 in Philadelphia before Cheeks was relieved of his coaching duties.

Three Keys:

1. Keep the Thunder off the line. Through the first 66 games of the 2012-13 season, the Thunder is once again the top free throw shooting team in the NBA. Oklahoma City leads the league in free throw shooting accuracy after converting at an 82.9 percent clip from the charity stripe. As a point of reference, the best all-time free throw shooting percentage for an entire season in NBA history is 83.2 percent (Boston Celtics; 1989-90). Moreover, through games played on Mar. 15, the Thunder has attempted the second most free throws in the NBA this season (1,802).

2. Stop Russell Westbrook. With Shawn Marion out for the game against the Thunder, it’s hard to imagine Dallas will find an answer for stopping Kevin Durant. That means the attention must go towards Westbrook. This is a game where Darren Collison must be ready for the challenge and play on a level similar to Westbrook. To his credit, Collison has fared well against his old college teammate as he is averaging 18.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.3 steals in three games (three starts) against Oklahoma City in 2012-13.

3. 2 for 1: Rebound and protect the ball. Dallas has to make sure they don’t commit a lot of live ball turnovers. If they have a lot of them, Oklahoma City is going to make them pay in transition. Oklahoma City ranks fourth in the league with an average of 18.8 points off turnovers this season and fifth in fast break points at 16.7. As for rebounding, Dallas is 17-8 this year (10-3 at home) when they outrebound their opponent. They are 14-26 (8-9 at home) when they are outrebounded by their opponent. Oklahoma City is 33-7 when outrebounding the opposition and a perfect 10-0 when outrebounding the opponent by 10 or more. Conversely, Oklahoma City has failed to outrebound their opponent in 14 of the team’s 19 losses.

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.