2 key factors for a Thunder Game 1 victory over Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks v Oklahoma City Thunder
Dallas Mavericks v Oklahoma City Thunder / Joshua Gateley/GettyImages
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The Oklahoma City Thunder swept New Orleans in the first round of the 2024 Playoffs and outscored them by roughly 16 points per 100 possessions. Herb Jones and Trey Murphy III played stellar defense, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander still managed to produce 27 points and five assists per game. 

Jalen Williams remained consistent in all areas, as the second-year forward averaged 21.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and nearly two steals per game. Chet Holmgren was a dominant interior defender, Josh Giddey shot the lights out, and OKC’s role players turned in excellent two-way performances. 

Overall, the Thunder kicked off this new era in perfect fashion.

Now, they'll be facing an extremely stiff test here in round two. Post-trade deadline, the Dallas Mavericks finished the regular season with a 21-9 record and ranked sixth in net rating. That stretch included a brutal 146-111 knockout victory against the Thunder in which seven Dallas players scored at least ten points. 

Oklahoma City enters Game 1 with an astonishing six full days of rest, which is double Dallas’ amount. Additionally, Luka Doncic has been battling through a knee sprain and illness, so he may not be 100 percent for the series. OKC definitely owns the fresher legs, but shooting rust could be a concern here. 

Can the Thunder eliminate the Mavericks and advance to their first conference finals since the 2015-16 season? It all starts with Tuesday's Game 1, and there are a couple of key factors the ball club must hone in on as they look to kick things off with a 1-0 record.