Czar’s Playoff Preview


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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.

Gameday Dish: Mavericks vs. Thunder

Copyright 2011 NBAE-Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe champion Dallas Mavericks head north tonight to take on the reigning 2x NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The young and exciting Sooner State squad is off to a strong 3-0 start in this compacted and compressed 2011-2012 NBA season. Scott Brooks’ roster remains in tact with nine returning players, so the Thunder will try to build on last year’s outstanding results and go one colossal step further to the NBA Finals.

On the other side, coach Rick Carlisle’s Mavs (0-2) are hoping to earn their first ‘W’ of this 66-game tilt after being blown out in both of their losses. On Christmas afternoon Dallas was handled easily by their 2011 Finals foes the Miami Heat soon after raising their first championship banner to the rafters in front of a boisterous crowd. And on Monday night, at home again, the Denver Nuggets destroyed them by a score of 115-93, and it wasn’t even that close. Heavy is the head that wears the crown?

The good news for the Mavs is that they won six of eight games against the Thunder last season, including four of five in the 2011 Western Conference Finals. In addition they were 4-0 in OKC, averaging a healthy 104.8 ppg.

The bad news is that this Dallas team looks and feels, in these early stages, quite different from the group that surprised a lot of seasoned hoops-heads and won their first title last June. The Mavericks lost six players from their history-making roster. Starting center Tyson Chandler and his 10.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg and, most importantly, his menacing defensive presence is gone via a sign-and-trade with the New York Knicks. Team sparkplug and pride of Northeastern University PG J.J. Barea left for the Timberwolves after they offered him more security with a four-year deal. Gone too are veterans Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson.

However, Mark Cuban’s band of ballers still boasts veteran holdovers 2011 Finals MVP, 10x NBA All-Star and scorer extraordinaire Dirk Nowitzki, 18th-year, 10x NBA All-Star ‘Mr. Forever Young’ PG Jason Kidd, “The Matrix” 6’7” wingman Shawn Marion and the JET – Jason Terry – the emotional heart of the team and former Sixth Man of the Year. The Mavs must quickly work to acclimate their new key players: 14th-year SG/SF Vince Carter, 13th-year forward Lamar Odom and 8th-year combo guard Delonte West.

Marv, Steve and I will be back in the booth tonight for another must-see NBA opening week matchup. Tune in to TNT at 8:00 PM ET to see if Dallas can right their ship and get back to playing the type of Mavericks basketball that won at least 50 games for 11 straight seasons and earned them the big ring last year.