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Monday, May 16, 2011

Dallas Versus Oklahoma City Preview

Western Conference Finals

#3 Dallas Mavericks (57-25) vs. #4 Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27)

Season series: Dallas, 2-1

Oklahoma City can win if…Kevin Durant averages 28-plus ppg while shooting at least .450 from the field, Russell Westbrook uses his athletic ability to dominate the point guard matchup and the Thunder's bigs control the paint. The Thunder will not likely be able to slow down Dirk Nowitzki, so the way for them to win the series is to create advantages in the other matchups.

Dallas will win because…the Mavericks have enough big men to at least fight to a draw in the paint, they have multiple bodies to throw at Durant defensively and the Dirk Nowitzki/Jason Terry duo will control any games that are close down the stretch.

Other things to consider: In each of the past two seasons, the media have voted Kevin Durant to the All-NBA First Team instead of Dirk Nowitzki, who would have been my choice both times. Durant is a fabulous scorer and an improving all-around player but he can be bullied by physical defenders and he generally can only beat a team with his scoring; Nowitzki is a proven postseason assassin who can beat teams not only with scoring but also with rebounding and even with his passing: ABC's Jeff Van Gundy made a very insightful point early in Oklahoma City's game seven win over the Memphis Grizzlies when he noted that Durant has not yet learned how to beat opponents by effectively passing out of double and triple teams (Kobe Bryant's mastery of this skill has often been praised by Van Gundy and Hubie Brown and was a very underrated factor in the Lakers' 2008-2010 playoff success). Nowitzki has averaged 25.6 ppg and 10.6 rpg in his playoff career, making him just the fourth player in ABA/NBA history to accomplish this feat (Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor, Hakeem Olajuwon and Bob Pettit are the others).

Westbrook became just the fifth player to post a game seven triple double (14 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds as the Thunder eliminated the Memphis Grizzlies, 105-90), joining a list that includes Hall of Famers/Top 50 selections Jerry West, Larry Bird, James Worthy and Scottie Pippen. Westbrook will be a very tough matchup for the Mavericks--too quick for Jason Kidd, too strong for Jason Terry or J.J. Barea--but even though I expect him to put up great numbers in this series I don't think that this will be quite enough to tip the balance.

The NBA's youth movement came to the forefront this postseason as the veteran teams that combined to win the past four championships (Lakers, Celtics and Spurs) each failed to advance to the Conference Finals but the Mavericks are not a young team by any stretch of the imagination; their rotation players are actually older on average than the Lakers' rotation players, with Dirk Nowitzki being a couple months older than Kobe Bryant (though Bryant has logged several thousand more career minutes than Nowitzki has) and Jason Kidd still performing effectively a couple months after celebrating his 38th birthday. Barea and starting center Tyson Chandler are the only members of Dallas' eight man rotation who are less than 30 years old. However, the Mavs have a deep, well balanced roster and their long range shooting prowess compensates for the fact that they do not have blazing speed at any position (Barea is the only regular member of the rotation who is really quick). The Thunder will certainly play with more energy and effectiveness defensively than the Lakers did last round versus Dallas but the combination of Nowitzki, Terry, depth and homecourt advantage will prove to be enough to lift the Mavericks to their second NBA Finals appearance in the Nowitzki era.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:51 PM

14 comments

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14 Comments:

At Tuesday, May 17, 2011 1:15:00 PM, Anonymous catclub said...

I remember that one time a point guard got a triple double, but one of the stats was 10 turnovers. Was that Iverson?
Is Westbrook a threat to do that against Dallas?

I see how Westbrook performs as possibly more important than Durant.

 
At Tuesday, May 17, 2011 3:54:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Catclub:

You are either thinking of a regular season game or a playoff game that happened a long time ago (maybe one that you recently saw on ESPN Classic or NBA TV); according to Basketball Reference, the only players to record 10 turnovers in a playoff game since 1985-86 are LeBron James (twice), Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Penny Hardaway. Duncan had 27 points and 17 rebounds in his 10 turnover game. Despite playing 43 minutes, KG had single figures in every other category (including points) in his 10 turnover game!

As I said in the article, Westbrook should have a bigger matchup advantage than Durant so Westbrook's performance probably will be more important than Durant's; OKC will likely need for Westbrook to play brilliantly in order to win this series.

 
At Tuesday, May 17, 2011 9:08:00 PM, Anonymous Stephen said...

My views just before the start of the game:

I'll take the Thunder. I think they'll be too athletic and have the bigs to throw at Dirk to slow him enough.

I wasn't sold on the Thunder at the beginning of the season but I like this matchup for them.

 
At Wednesday, May 18, 2011 1:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

dallas gon win this series. but without home court in finals will sttruggle only 5 of thirty teams have won without homecourt advantage. since merger. 79-80 so its not on there side this seems to be there year dirk scored 48 so they look offly tough this year. but no homecourt going agianst big 3 or rose is daunting task.

 
At Wednesday, May 18, 2011 6:19:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Stephen:

I like the Thunder a lot but I just don't quite see them beating the Mavs in a playoff series this year.

 
At Wednesday, May 18, 2011 6:23:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

I am not sure where you got that stat from but the merger season was 1976-77, not 1979-80. The NBA has used the 2-3-2 format in the NBA Finals since 1985, so comparisons to seasons prior to that may not be completely relevant.

 
At Wednesday, May 18, 2011 1:50:00 PM, Anonymous Stephen said...

My computer spazzed out in the middle of a long comment.

Long story short, I felt the Thunder would do better on Dirk than the Lakers. Most of this based on how physical the Thunder were with a very physical player (Randolph). I also thought they'd force Dirk the give up the ball. They did at times but they often helped off of the wrong players.

The Thunder didn't do much (if any) better than the Lakers with dribble penetration, which is pretty bad. I mean Kobe was on one leg and Fisher roamed with the dinosaurs so really it makes no sense the Thunder, very young and athletic team, would allow so much penetration.

All that said, how about Dirk?
I know Jordan and Kobe averaged about 1.3 points per shot in their championship years. Too often people look at a Ginobli or Gasol's PPS and think they should shoot more or be put on that level, but we both know those cases are garbage.
Dirk is a legit number one option and he had something like a 3 PPS last night. It's essentially the equivalent of his every FG last night being a 3...and making all of them.

 
At Wednesday, May 18, 2011 3:07:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Stephen:

I am not prone to hyperbole and perhaps I am forgetting a game that I should remember but I think that Dirk just put on the greatest shooting exhibition that I have ever seen in a playoff game. As ESPN's Tim Legler said, Dirk shot the ball 39 times and the ball went in the hoop 36 times, an accuracy rate that would be hard to duplicate in an empty gym.

 
At Wednesday, May 18, 2011 6:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

merger meaning since wen bird in magic played 24 out of 27 finals been won by team who had homecourt.

dirk had a great shooting exhibition dirk is a great player not a all time great to me till he wins title. he looks diffrent this year. maybe he wont fold like other years. but thats the ladt thing dogging him he is a unique great talent.

 
At Wednesday, May 18, 2011 10:46:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

The merger preceded the Bird-Magic era.

I don't think that Dirk "folded." He is one of only four players to average at least 25 ppg and 10 rpg for a playoff career (Pettit, Baylor and Olajuwon are the others), so it is not like he suddenly became a tough playoff matchup; he has a better, tougher, more defensive-minded supporting cast than he had in previous seasons.

 
At Thursday, May 19, 2011 3:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

yea maybe but he is not nowhere near top ten players in nba history and the last two weeks people all of a sudden saying this asinine stuff. he might be in top 40. but he has no hardware so far if he gets a ring perhaps move up in top 30 area. but i think people need to keep it in perspective. kobe duncan shaq was top 10 all time from this era legler broussard and skip bayless plus jalen rose had them. dirk is not better than them kg or jason kidd and probably not a.i or lebron. let alone top 10 all time. he is best euro ever best big man shooter ever. tough matchup unique player but not in the convo wit all time greats till he wins ring.

 
At Friday, May 20, 2011 3:52:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

I agree that Dirk does not rank among the top 10 players of all time but I don't think that it is correct to say that you have to win a ring to be a top 10 player. Elgin Baylor never won a ring and he is certainly still in the discussion as a top 10 player--and when he retired he was arguably a top five player, along with Chamberlain, Russell, West and Robertson (the only other pre-1972 player who could be put in that group is Pettit).

 
At Tuesday, May 24, 2011 4:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

dirk shooting 55 percent from fied 60 from 90 from free throw 34 and 10. collison perkins makeing pau and bynum look like defensive specialist. the way dirk killin them. ultimately the thunder choked dallas outscored them 28-6 so we kno there going to finals ater next game to play chi/mia winner. dallas look gud but not haveing homecourt big in finals.

 
At Tuesday, May 24, 2011 11:45:00 AM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Dirk Nowitzki has really stepped up in this series and has re-emphasized that he is one of the premier players in the NBA. All the talk about him being "soft" or a "choke" was a myth to begin with - and he's doing everything he can to prove that he is the exact opposite.

It's amazing how a couple of key events can shape a player's career, at least in the eyes of the media. If Dallas had won the 2006 NBA Finals, it's very likely that the way Dirk and Wade are perceived would be reversed.

 

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