NBA Postseason Series Preview: (3) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks

Russell Westbrook is a triple-double threat every night.

Russell Westbrook is a triple-double threat every night.

(3) OKC vs (6) DAL

Opening Game: Saturday, April 16 at 9:30 PM
Series Price: OKC -2600; DAL +1000
Game One Spread: OKC -12
Game One Total: 209.5

Betting odds c/o Bookmaker

The Oklahoma City Thunder are back in the postseason after an injury-riddled 2014-15 campaign that saw the team strike out on the postseason on the season’s final day. This year, the Thunder won 55 games and secured the No. 3 seed in the West. OKC will host No. 6 seeded Dallas at 8:30 PM on ESPN. The Thunder are 12-point favorites in the game and are listed at -2600 for the series.

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OKC ended the season by losing three of its final four games, but its place as the No. 3 team in the West was more or less secured by that point. For as good as the Thunder can be, detractors are still quick to point out that this is a team entirely revolving around two stars in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Durant hits free agency this summer, and will be heavily courted. He led the team in scoring with 28.2 points per game this season while Westbrook was good for 23.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game.

It is beyond Durant and Westbrook that things get a bit sketchy. To be sure, Enes Kanter is a huge upgrade over what Kendrick Perkins brought in the post, but only on offense. Kanter is a sub-par defender which forces the Thunder to frequently play the far-less-gifted Steven Adams.

Adams and Kanter more or less split the minutes at the 5-spot, with Kanter averaging 12.7 points per game and Adams a more modest eight. Serge Ibaka is a consummate defender at power forward, but he too lacks offensively, averaging 12.6 points in 32 minutes of play per night. His biggest contribution remains his shot blocking and rim protection—and Ibaka did average 1.9 blocks per game this season.

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Beyond that group, the Thunder do still rely heavily on an array of role players, mostly guards, to make up the force of its second group. Dion Waiters and Randy Foye both play meaningful minutes, but Waiters shoots under 40 percent from the field and Foye is worse still at just 34.9 percent. The Thunder have no issues scoring the ball even with such a mediocre supporting cast. OKC averaged 110 points per game this season while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor as a team. What will happen if Durant heads elsewhere this summer, though?

Dallas finished the season 42-40, and it is clearly a team featuring many declining talents, not the least of which is future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk averaged 18.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this season. He led the team in scoring while center Zaza Pachulia took the lead in board with 9.4 per contest.

Dallas features a lot of players trying to make good in their twilight years, from Dirk to point guard Deron Williams and his backup Raymond Felton. Zaza Pachulia had a good year at center, but going into the season one would have been hard-pressed to make an argument that he is a starting center on a playoff contending team.

The Mavs also got precious little from David Lee when he was acquired, which is a pity because the Mavs really need a difference maker on the interior. Dallas still average 9.8 made threes per game this season while shooting 34.4 percent from behind the arc as a team, but the Mavs are going to have a lot of trouble keeping up with OKC in this series. As good as Dirk is, he is well-declined and his teammates are a host of mediocre options with none really even masquerading as a legitimate No. 2 option.

Swingman Chandler Parsons had season-ending knee surgery and his status with the team moving into next season remains in question. He has not ruled out a return to the Houston Rockets and has also been linked to the Orlando Magic. For the meantime, though, Dallas is without its most versatile wing player in a series it already will have a tough time staying competitive in.

Bottom Line: Thunder in 5

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Posted by on Apr 16 2016. Filed under Headlines, NBA. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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