Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Thunder (16-4) at Mavericks (14-8), 8:00 p.m. EST tip


Thunder (1-game losing streak)
105.4 Offensive Efficiency (3rd)
99.4 Defensive Efficiency (14th)
+6.0 Differential (6th)
95.2 Pace (9th)

Mavericks (3-game winning streak)
100.6 Offensive Efficiency (15th)
96.4 Defensive Efficiency (7th)
+4.2 Differential (8th)
93.8 Pace (16th)

The Thunder are coming off a tough loss to the Clippers two nights ago in what was a great matchup. The Thunder got off to a rough start and then played hard to try and comeback but just didn’t have enough in the tank. Dallas has won three-straight and has an impressive 14-8 record this season despite Dirk Nowitzki resting for four games and no more Tyson Chandler. Jason Kidd is injured and will miss the game leaving Rodrigue Beaubois to start in his place. Russell Westbrook was named the Western Conference Player of the Week yesterday and has been playing great since signing his extension. Kevin Durant has also been playing at a high level and always does against the Mavs including his game-winner from the teams’ first meeting this season.

Thunder keys to the game

1. Make the Mavs look old

Dallas is an old team and can look old at times. The Thunder are as exciting and athletic as any team in the league and need to control the pace of this game so they can take advantage of this. The Thunder shot 58.7 percent from the field the first time these teams played this year including shooting 16-of-17 at the rim. The Thunder are 19-for-26 on fast break shots vs. the Mavs and should look to get out and run as much as possible. The two biggest advantages Oklahoma City has on offense is scoring in transition and scoring on isolation plays.

2. Dirk vs. Ibaka

Dirk is back in the lineup now for the Mavs after his four-game break to help with conditioning. The Thunder like to put Serge Ibaka on Dirk as much as possible. Ibaka is coming on late but has always had trouble with the savvy Dirk. Dirk scored 29 and then 26 points vs. the Thunder this season. Ibaka is averaging 39 minutes per game vs. the Mavs this year and only 26 minutes per game normally. Will Ibaka be able to completely shut down Dirk? Probably not but as long as he slows him down that’s an upgrade for the Thunder in this matchup since they usually experience big games by Dirk.

3. Take care of the ball

The Mavericks are one of the best defenses in the league this year and the Thunder turn the ball over as much as anyone. OKC turned the rock over 26 times against the Mavs the first time they played this year and had big turnover problems last season in the playoffs. Westbrook needs to play under control and take advantage of the mismatches that will try and guard him. With Kidd out, expect Westbrook to attack more and have more success doing so. Also, keep an eye on how James Harden adjusts to starting again tonight (if he does) with Thabo Sefolosha out. He seemed out of rhythm last game versus the Clippers but we’ll see if he tries to get going early tonight.

Prediction: Oklahoma City wins 91-82.

Tags: James Harden Kevin Durant Russell Westbrook Serge Ibaka Thabo Sefolosha