First Round Preview: #3 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #6 Dallas Mavericks

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The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks will be squaring off in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. It’s an intriguing match-up that proves to bring some great basketball between start-studded squads.

The Thunder proved to hold the reigns in this match-up during the regular season as the Thunder won all four games.

Season Series:

11/22: Thunder 117-114

1/13: Thunder 108-89

1/22: Thunder 109-106

2/24: Thunder 116-103

First Round Schedule:

Game 1 – Saturday, April 16, 8:30 p.m. CT at Oklahoma City (ESPN)

Game 2 – Monday, April 18, 7:00 p.m. CT at Oklahoma City (TNT)

Game 3 – Thursday, April 21, 6:00 p.m. CT at Dallas (TNT)

Game 4 – Saturday, April 23, 7:00 p.m. CT at Dallas (ESPN)

Game 5 – Monday, April 25 at Oklahoma City (if necessary)

Game 6 – Thursday, April 28 at Dallas (if necessary)

Game 7 – Saturday, April 30 at Oklahoma City (if necessary) (TNT)

Position Breakdown:

Point Guard

Deron Williams vs. Russell Westbrook

Winner: Russell Westbrook

This is an intriguing match-up to watch in this series. Although it’s a position that Westbrook will likely dominate in this series, don’t be surprised if it brings out the best in Deron Williams. Westbrook almost averaged a triple-double in the regular season with 23.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 10.4 assists. which looks more of like a LeBron James stat line than anything else. But on the other side, Williams, yes, is an average point guard for the Mavericks. One thing that will prove to be of some importance is that Williams has been the best clutch shooter in the entire league (43-of-85 from the floor overall), has the most clutch 3-pointers made in the league at 17-of-33.

Shooting Guard

Wesley Matthews vs. Andre Roberson

Winner: Wesley Matthews

Wesley Matthews has been the vocal leader for the Mavericks this season, which can go a long way for a team, but he just hasn’t been that great. With shooting numbers at an all time low, it is tough to say who is the better player right now in this match-up. Matthews gets the slight edge due to overall statistical performance. Roberson is a great defender which is why he gets the starting nod over a guy like Dion Waiters.

Small Forward

Justin Anderson vs. Kevin Durant

Winner: Kevin Durant

With a quiet 28.2 points this season, it’s crazy just how efficient this guy is when he is on the floor. Even crazier, is his teammate may have had an even better regular season.  Durant’s season included another year where he shot 50% or better from the floor, his fourth year in a row. He is able to guard multiple positions, even down low versus the power forward. His amazing season may have just been overlooked by the Warriors historic season.

On the other side, it’s rookie Justin Anderson. He is the only healthy small forward on the roster, due to Chandler Parsons out with knee surgery, so expect the Mavericks to go small as it pushes Wesley Matthews up to play the three as well.

Power Forward

Serge Ibaka vs. Dirk Nowitzki

Winner: Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk is 37 and only has a few more seasons left in the tank. The Mavericks need stellar play from Nowitzki, and they need him on the floor as much as possible. Dirk is the catalyst of this offense and they are a very scrappy team when he is in the lineup. If he falls off his normal production, then things could be bad for the Mavericks very quickly. Serge Ibaka is still one of the best “under the radar” players in this league. With an improved three point shot, and an elite rim protector, it won’t be an easy task for Nowitzki to face.

Center

ZaZa Pachulia vs. Steven Adams

Winner: ZaZa Pachulia

ZaZa Pachulia has been a story to follow this season. A career journeyman, he has been stretched into an everyday starter for the Mavericks, and honestly, hasn’t been that bad. He was averaging almost a double-double in the first half of the season, but has since slowed down his production. Steven Adams, for the Thunder, has developed a great groove with Westbrook on the pick n’ roll. He can prove to give the Mavericks some fits if they are focusing too much on Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

Bench

Winner: Thunder

This was kind of a tough one. The Thunder and Mavericks benches kind of feel similar to me. The Mavericks have a really good bench guard in J.J. Barea, almost starter worthy. The Thunder get quality minutes from guys like Collison and Foye. The X-Factor for me is a guy like Kyle Singler. A few quick three’s off the bench for him could prove to work wonders for the Thunder.

The Thunder Will Win If…

The Thunder have the execute on both ends on the floor, especially in the fourth quarter. With the two best players on the floor, one would think that they would be deadly in the fourth. Post All-Star break, the Thunder have actually been outscored by 50 points. They have the players to do it, it is just going to take what they did in the regular season versus the Mavericks, which is good ball movement and trusting your teammates to make the right shot.

The Mavericks Will Win If…

They are facing the leagues second best offense. They have the defend the basketball if they want to have a chance. The Thunder are too efficient to get into a shootout against them. They also have to play the same type of offensive basketball like they did in February. The reason why they have been able to end the season strong is great defense. Their offense needs to improve, and quickly.

Prediction: Thunder in 5

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