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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Thunder guards must play elite defense

Dallas possesses plenty of effective play-finishers, but they mainly rely on Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving to create offense. If those two are ineffective, then the Mavericks cannot really turn to anyone else.

For example: Doncic and Irving have combined for 77 isolation possessions this postseason, while no other Maverick has recorded a single isolation possession. The duo also has 163 pull-up field goal attempts so far, and the rest of the roster owns a combined 32 attempts. 

Fortunately, the Thunder possess disruptive perimeter defenders to throw at them. Lu Dort just held Brandon Ingram to a mere 14 points per game on 34 percent from the field, and he will be their main weapon.

Luka Doncic typically overwhelms guards with his size, but Dort possesses the strength to absorb Doncic’s bumps and deny driving lanes. Factor in Doncic’s injured knee, and it’s unlikely that he will be able to get to his spots against Dort at a frequent enough rate, thus causing him to settle for contested jumpers. 

Meanwhile, rookie Cason Wallace has the off-ball chops and foot speed to mark Kyrie Irving. Although a scorer of Irving’s caliber cannot be neutralized, Wallace may be able to limit his explosions and, in turn, force him into contested shots.

At the end of the day, that’s all a defender can do against this duo -- force poor shot quality and hope for a miss. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s off-ball steals will also be massive for the Thunder as well. The Thunder led the league in opponent turnover percentage, and it could help them steal back lost possessions from Dallas’ offensive rebounding. 

In conclusion, how well OKC’s guards play defensively may be the difference between advancing and an early exit.