Apr 27, 2012, 2:20 AM EDT
Oklahoma City (47-19, 2 seed) vs. Dallas (38-28, 7 seed)
Offense/Defense Rankings (points per 100 possessions):
Offense: OKC 107.2 (2nd in NBA) vs. DAL 101.1 (20th in NBA)
Defense: OKC 100 (9th in NBA) vs. DAL 98.6 (8th in NBA)
Three Key Thunder:
Kevin Durant: Durant just locked up his 3rd consecutive scoring title, and he did it with a ludicrously high true shooting percentage of 61%. Durant can take the ball to the rim, he can catch and shoot, he can knock down contested jumpers, he can do it all. Basically, if it involves putting a basketball in a hoop, Kevin Durant is really good at it. Durant will likely finish 2nd to LeBron James in MVP voting, but he’s got a great chance to make up for it by winning a championship before LeBron does.
Russell Westbrook: For all the junk Westbrook takes about whether or not he’s a true point guard and how many shots he takes, the Thunder run their offense through the ultra-talented Westbrook, and it’s been working for them, to say the least. When Westbrook can get the Thunder out in the open floor, they become completely unstoppable, and he’s getting better and better at picking his spots and setting up his teammates in half-court situations. The Thunder offense will stagnate when Westbrook tries to take contested jumpers early in the shot clock that he shouldn’t be taking, but there’s no denying that the UCLA product is a true superstar and a main reason the Thunder have been so successful.
James Harden: Harden makes bad basketball plays about as often as he shaves his beard. Harden isn’t the most athletic star in the league, and he took a bit of time to develop, but he’s become a true star and a lock for the 6th Man of the Year Award. Harden has true 3-point range, can slither between defenders and get to the rim, and is a fantastic playmaker to boot. It’s almost unfair that the Thunder have the luxury of bringing him off the bench, because he can pick apart a defense as well as almost any player in the league, starter or non-starter.
Three Key Mavericks:
Dirk Nowitzki: The reigning Finals MVP. What more do I need to say? Dirk finally got the monkey off his back by winning it all last season, but he followed it up with a bit of a down year statistically, as his points per game went down and his FG% was as low as it’s been since his rookie season. Still, Nowitzki can take over a game at any time with his unblockable fadeaways, and the Thunder won’t sleep on him after what he did to them in last year’s Western Conference Finals.
Jason Terry: Terry is a player who can simply light up the scoreboard and take over a game whenever he feels like it. Terry has range out to the parking lot, doesn’t seem to care whether there’s a hand in his face or not, and lives for clutch situations — it takes some serious stones to get a tattoo of the NBA Finals trophy before the Finals begin, and Terry backed it up last season. The Mavericks are coming into this series as underdogs, but I get the feeling that’s how Terry likes it.
Shawn Marion: Marion isn’t the two-way force he was in Phoenix, but he’s still capable of doing a ton of things on offense and guarding almost any player on the court. Against the Thunder, he’ll have the unenviable task of trying to use his length to limit the damage Kevin Durant will do — if he can’t find a way to slow down the Thunder’s offensive attack, it could be a very short series for the defending champs.
Normally, it’s never wise to bet against the defending champs until they’re actually beaten, but Mark Cuban changed the game a little bit when he decided to let Tyson Chandler walk in free agency in the hope of landing Dwight Howard or Deron Williams this off-season. The Mavericks have a lot of experience, and were able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against the Thunder in last year’s Western Conference Finals last season, but a more experienced and confident Thunder team should be able to roll through this year’s Mavericks squad without too much trouble.
Thunder in 6.
Oct 1, 2014, 12:06 AM EDT
New floor should be in place for the start of the 2014-15 season.
Sep 30, 2014, 10:51 PM EDT
Professional sports franchises are businesses above all else, and typically would rather avoid politics.
Sep 30, 2014, 9:44 PM EDT
Sep 30, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT
Everyone wants to derail the 76ers’ plan
Sep 30, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT
I don’t know whether this helps Kentucky’s players. It opens Calipari’s options, though.
Sep 30, 2014, 6:28 PM EDT
Now we know what show promos TNT is going to beat us over the head with during the next playoffs.
Sep 30, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT
Expectations are reduced, but Miami still has the chance to be pretty a pretty good team — even without LeBron James.
Sep 30, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT
Sep 30, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
John Wall fires back: ‘They haven’t seen a playoff game yet. When they make one they can start talking.’
Sep 30, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT
Thunder center has a new, um intense, loook
Sep 30, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
Mike Miller being amnestied may have been the first domino to fall in LeBron bolting.
Sep 30, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
Sep 30, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT
Is Melo even a superstar?
Sep 30, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT
LeBron could miss Cavaliers’ practice tonight
Sep 30, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT
The NBA is just more fun with Swaggy P in it.
Sep 30, 2014, 12:26 PM EDT
It does — at least Kobe’s
Sep 30, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT
Manning leads by detailed preparation and then an ability to read a defense, a good example for any point guard.
Sep 30, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
GM Ainge hints he’d offer the max to Rondo next summer.
Sep 30, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
We could see a lot more of this during the season.
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Miami Heat 5
- Mike Miller points to him being amnestied as start of LeBron James leaving Miami 11
- Kobe Bryant thinks he could physically play beyond contract extension 14
- Trey Burke, in wake of nude-photo scandal: ‘My judgments will be much better’ 12
- Report: Kevin Durant says he wants to play in 2016 Olympics (his free agent summer) 5
- Morris twins sign four-year extensions with Suns 11
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Washington Wizards 3
- Rockets’ Daryl Morey fires back at Mark Cuban: If you care about chemistry, why break up a title team? 36