Czar’s Playoff Preview: Mavericks vs. Thunder Game 2

The Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder will square off tonight in the capital of the Sooner State in Game 2 of their first-round, best of seven series. The Thunder won the opening game 99-98 on a last-second, Kevin Durant foul line jumper reminiscent of his game winner in the first regular season match between these teams.

The reigning 3X NBA scoring champ and 2012 MVP candidate had 25 points, 6 boards, 4 dimes and 4 blocks in a game-high 44 minutes of court time. The West’s second seeded OKC squad is hoping to avenge last year’s WCF defeat, when the eventual NBA champs Dallas took out the up-and-coming Thunder team 4 games to 1.

14th-year, 11X All-Star and 2007 NBA MVP Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 25 points in the loss. The uber-clutch Dirk had 11 of those points in the final five minutes of the game, nearly enough to push Dallas over the top and help them steal a road victory.

However, OKC coach Scott Brooks had enough of Dirk’s late game dominance and decided to run a double-team at him every time he touched the rock. This strategy proved successful, resulting in two key Dallas turnovers late in the game.

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty ImagesThese two sides met four times during the shortened regular season. OKC won the season series 3 games to 1 with their only defeat coming in ‘Big D’, 100-87, on January 2nd. The Mavs have endured a rollercoaster of a season with multiple losing streaks, a redone roster and an aging core. But as they demonstrated last season, to count out coach Rick Carlisle’s guys in the playoffs is a huge mistake.

The oldest player on the court, 18th-year, 39-year-old PG Jason Kidd, had 7 steals, 8 points, 6 boards and 5 dimes in Game 1. Dallas also has a solid bench anchored by Jason ‘JET’ Terry, who had 20 points and 5 dimes in the opener. However, the Thunder protect their home court vigilantly. They went 26-7 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena this season, while the Mavericks were a sub-par 13-20 on the road in 2011-12.

Dallas desperately wants to avoid going into an 0-2 hole in this series. Look for the 2011 NBA champions to come out swinging tonight, knowing that they didn’t play their best ball on Saturday and nearly won. Join Matt Devlin and me for TNT’s live coverage of DAL @ OKC Game 2 at 9:30 PM ET to see if the veteran Mavs can even the score or if the super-charged young guns of the Thunder are on a take-no-prisoners trajectory to their first NBA Finals.

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