Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers.
Dallas Mavericks Team Overview
The defending champs did not put up much of a title defense last season. The Dallas Mavericks finished as the 7-seed in the Western Conference and then got swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round.
They weren’t trying to repeat as champions though and instead went in another direction, trying to get into position to land a big name free agent in the future. Dallas let Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea walk from their title team and seemed to be in a sort of hangover for a lot of the season, especially Dirk Nowitzki.
This offseason Dallas was hoping to lure Deron Williams away from the Brooklyn Nets but failed in doing so as Williams decided to re-sign in Brooklyn. The Mavericks now turn to Dwight Howard who still could become a free agent next summer despite being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason.
It looked for a moment like Dallas would bottom-out next year as their roster was disappearing on them. Jason Terry left for Boston, Jason Kidd left for New York and Brendan Haywood went to Charlotte. The Mavs also lost Lamar Odom, Kelenna Azubuike and Ian Mahinmi from last year’s roster.
Dallas scrounged together some decent talent though to replace what they lost. O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison and Elton Brand are the most notable names coming to Dallas next year. The Mavs also drafted three players in Jared Cunningham, Bernard James and Jae Crowder.
They’re not dead yet and while they’ll have a very different look next season, they will still definitely be competing for a playoff spot again.
The Mavericks and the Thunder played four times in the regular season last year with the Thunder taking the season series 3-1. Then in the playoffs, the Thunder went on to sweep the Mavs in the first round.
Dallas had beaten the Thunder in five games in the Western Conference Finals back in 2011 so it was a big step for the Thunder to overcome the defending champs last season.
Kevin Durant and the Thunder started last season off with a bang beating Dallas 104-102 on Dec. 29 in dramatic fashion. Durant hit this shot at the buzzer to begin what would be a tremendous season for Durant and the Thunder.
Durant averaged 25.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game vs. the Mavs in the regular season.
Russell Westbrook averaged 22.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game against the Mavs. He struggled shooting against them though at just .392 percent.
James Harden averaged 14.3 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds against Dallas and also struggled from the field shooting just .390 percent.
When the playoffs came around, Durant started off the series the same way he did against Dallas in their first regular season matchup, hitting this game-winning shot in the final seconds.
Durant would average 26.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game vs. Dallas in the first round. Westbrook averaged 22.3 points in the playoffs and upped his field goal percentage to .453. Harden killed the Mavs in the first round averaging 18.3 points and shooting .500 percent from the field. He completely took over the fourth quarter of Game 4 of that series too to close the door on Dallas.
Dirk dominated the Thunder in 2010-11 but he really slowed down against them last season. He averaged 22.5 points and shot .443 percent from the field against them in the regular season. In the playoffs, Dirk averaged 26.8 points per game, shot .442 percent from the field and just .167 percent from three.
Despite having a pretty rocky season, the Mavericks looked like a team that could possible give the Thunder trouble in the playoffs. They played them very close in Game 1 of their series but obviously didn’t have the legs to keep up with the young guns.
Dallas was a team all about execution during the title run in 2011. That still remained in their offense last season as they were fifth best in the league in the pick-and-roll in terms of points per possession. The Thunder struggled somewhat against the pick-and-roll last year and that is an area where Dallas really could have hurt them.
The problem for Dallas was their defense really took a hit with Chandler leaving for New York. They were 28th in the league defending isolation plays but still pretty good against the pick-and-roll, sixth in the league.
Their defense got worse in the playoffs, partly because they were up against one of the most efficient offenses in the league. You don’t have to break down the numbers to realize that OKC outperformed Dallas all over during their 4-game sweep of them.
The Mavs defense did not step up while the Thunder defense did get better come playoff time. That was the formula for the sweep.
The Thunder and Mavericks were a sort of rivalry these past few seasons but that should be fading next year as the Thunder should continue to get better while Dallas does the opposite.
The teams will play four times next season with the first meeting coming in OKC on Dec. 27. Then they will play in Dallas on Jan. 18, in OKC on Feb. 4 and finally back in Dallas March 17.
It will be very interesting to see how Dallas comes together next season with their new guys and if Dirk can continue playing at an elite level. There are too many variables for Dallas to look at them as a serious challenger to the Thunder though.
OKC should be able to take the season series, probably 3-1 again. There is a chance that the Thunder and Mavericks could meet in the playoffs again. The Thunder are projected to finish as the 1- or 2-seed in the West while Dallas is right in the 6-8 seed range.