The Dallas Mavericks (42-29) will play game five of their eight game home stand against the Oklahoma City Thunder (52-18), tipoff at 7 PM CT.
After their 107-104 overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets, the Mavericks find themselves a game back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the 7th seed and in a tie with the Phoenix Suns for the 8th and final seed.
Father Time Encore?: Dirk Nowitzki looked as fatigued and old as we’ve ever seen him in the loss to the Nets. He made just 2-12 for 10 points in 38 minutes of action. The Mavericks and Nowitzki can’t afford another poor showing against one of the NBA’s best. With the schedule dwindling and Suns and Memphis Grizzlies surging, the Mavericks need Nowitzki at his best to secure a playoff spot.
No Favors This Time: The Mavericks lucked out in the last meeting with the Thunder electing to rest Russell Westbrook. The Mavericks won’t be so lucky this time, with the explosive and fiery guard active for this potential playoff matchup.
MVP: If having to prepare for Westbrook isn’t enough, the Mavericks will also have their hands full with the NBA’s scoring leader and lead candidate for MVP. Shawn Marion will have the daunting responsibility of trying to slow down Kevin Durant.
Which Sam Will Show Up?: Sam Dalembert is coming off his best game of the season, tallying season highs of 15 rebounds and 7 blocks to go with his 12 points. The Mavericks will need another strong showing from Dalembert, especially with an expected heavy dose of Westbrook drives.
No Way Jose? There haven’t been any announcements yet in regard to Jose Calderon’s participation in this matchup. It was evident that the Mavericks missed their floor general and top three-point shooter in the loss to the Nets after exiting one minute into the game. If Calderon is a no-go, expect Devin Harris to start and either rookie Shane Larkin or Wayne Ellington to take up the remaining backup guard minutes.
Have It All: This is the type of game that the Monta Ellis can make a name for himself. The Mavericks will need their number two option to do it all. Ellis will need to be able to attack the Thunder’s defense, create for his teammates, and defend. It won’t come to a surprise if Ellis finds himself matched up with Westbrook on both sides of the court. Ellis must find a way to slow down the guard in those instances and must be able to attack Westbrook and challenge Thunder’s shot blocker Serge Ibaka. If Nowitzki is struggling again, Ellis will have to shoulder the load as he did against the Nets.
The Mavericks home stand hasn’t gone as planned, at 2-2 the final four games will be a challenge. The Mavericks must find a way to win this potential first round matchup to avoid falling out of the top eight in the West.
If a win against the Thunder wasn’t enough with the current circumstances, the Mavericks next host the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.