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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Survive on the defensive glass 

It’s no secret that the Thunder can be exploited on the glass, as they ranked 27th in opponent offensive rebound rate and 30th in opponent put-back frequency this regular season. Dallas is not an elite offensive-rebounding team, but they do roster individuals who could become serious pests for Oklahoma City to deal with. 

Daniel Gafford, in particular, is a potential put-back menace and second-chance monster that could be a problem in this matchup.

Across two games against the Thunder this regular season, Gafford totaled 38 points and 24 rebounds in just 43 of action. On top of this, he shot 15 for 22 from the field, or, in other words, roughly 68 percent. The fifth-year veteran finished the season with an 11.4 percent offensive rebound rate –- good for ninth in the NBA. 

Meanwhile, Dereck Lively II matched Gafford’s offensive rebound rate and also will be a major obstacle for OKC to face on the boards. The rookie is not as physically imposing as Gafford, but his wingspan is nearly five inches longer. 

Overall, the Thunder’s elite outside shooting and ball movement will likely lead them to a superior point-per-possession mark compared to the Mavericks. However, Dallas snagging a significant possession edge could potentially turn the tide.

If Chet Holmgren and company can somewhat survive on the defensive glass and not be battered to pieces, then OKC has an excellent chance to take game one.