Oklahoma City Thunder Playoff Preview; First Round vs. Dallas Mavericks
With the 2016 NBA playoffs now underway, let’s take a look at this year’s Oklahoma City Thunder Playoff Preview.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will play the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs starting Saturday night. The Thunder were most likely hoping to play an injury-depleted Memphis Grizzlies team to start their playoff run. However, with the Grizzlies losing against the Warriors, they dropped down to the seventh seed bumping the Mavericks into the sixth seed.
This first round matchup will be a test for the Thunder. Dallas is an experienced team and has been known to make deep playoff runs as lower seeds in the past.
The Thunder have won all four regular season games they have played against the Mavericks by an average of 9.5 ppg. Two of the games were decided by only three and came down to the wire. The confidence a team has going into the playoffs when playing a team that you have swept in the regular season can only be strong.
The Thunder shouldn’t have too much trouble advancing. However, the Dallas Mavericks are a team built for the playoffs, so the necessary preparation and mindset need to be intact in order for them to take care of business properly.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
You would think that with two of the league’s best offensive players, fourth quarters would be a strength for Oklahoma City. However, since the All-Star break, the Thunder were outscored by 50 points in the final period. They blew fourth-quarter leads of 9, 12 and 17 points late in the season and were 3-12 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes after the break.
The Thunder’s late-game offense has always been under scrutiny and things haven’t been different under coach Billy Donovan. Ball movement is lacking and with defenses focused on Durant and Westbrook, good shots are hard to come by.
Bench Play will be Crucial
The bench of the Thunder may be the key to their playoff success. Durant and Westbrook are going to produce at a high level. Other role players, like Enes Kanter, Randy Foye, and Dion Waiters need to contribute at both ends of the floor if the Thunder want to make a deep playoff run.
It will take a complete team effort to beat such high-quality teams in the Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, and San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder need to focus on handling this veteran Dallas team before they even think about the future. Look for this series to be full of drama and quality basketball.
Westbrook and Durant provide matchup nightmares for Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks. Deron Williams has lost a step on the defensive end and nobody in Dallas’ front court or back court can match Durant’s length and versatility.
Durant torched Dallas in three meetings this season, averaging 25.7 points and making 51.9% of his shots from the field. Westbrook stuffed the stat book in four games, averaging 17.8 points, 9.8 assists, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals.
(Oklahoma City Thunder Playoff Preview)