Thunder: 3 Pros and cons to potentially playing Mavericks in semifinals

Dec 2, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and Dallas
Dec 2, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and Dallas / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
3 of 3

Cons to Thunder playing Mavericks

1. No real blueprint

During the 2023-2024 season, the Thunder and Mavs played four times. OKC won three of the four matchups but with a catch. Luka only played in two of the games against the Thunder this season, while Kyrie also missed a game.

In those games, Doncic scored 36 points in a six-point loss, and the other was a 35-point rout of the Thunder.

This means that OKC only has half the sample size they otherwise would. In addition, Dallas made some major moves at the trade deadline, bringing in names like P.J. Washington Jr. and Daniel Gafford.

Oklahoma City only saw that revamped Mavericks roster twice.

Due to this, OKC is going into this series with little to gameplan around from their own experiences, meaning they will have to rely on film to decide their offensive and defensive focuses.

To contrast, Oklahoma City played LA three times during the regular season, with just one game where Kawhi Leonard was absent.

With much more in-game run against the Clippers, a matchup with the Mavs could lead to some difficult matchups for the Thunder.

This lack of regular season experience between Dallas and OKC could prove to be somewhat of a disadvantage come round two.

2. Home-court advantage

If round one showed us anything, it is that the Thunder faithful are loud and proud at home games. Standing and roaring throughout the contest, OKC’s home-court advantage was immensely apparent during round one.

In an article from Sports Illustrated, they highlight one post game interview from SGA. This is what Shai had to say about the Thunder’s home crowd:

""They were exactly what I expected." "I've said this so many times, even when I wasn't here and I played here, the arena was always electric. Always had so much energy. (The fans) were perfect, and they were themselves tonight.""

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

While fans showed up in New Orleans, it was obvious that the passion from Thunder fans was not matched by those supporting the Pelicans.

While basketball fans as a whole run rampant in Los Angeles, the majority of the fanbase favors the Lakers.

Clipper nation exists, however fans of the Mavericks are far more vocal. A matchup with Dallas would pose quite the challenge for the Thunder.

The Mavericks finished the 2023-2024 regular season with the second highest average attendance in the league, second just to the Chicago Bulls.

American Airlines Center is constantly sold out with Maverick fans clambering for a chance to watch their team play. The playoff atmosphere will only amplify the already rowdy home crowd.

Home-court advantage will play a major role in round two for the Thunder. The only question is, how intense will the home crowd be for Dallas?

3. Dallas' star duo

While Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and James Harden are all very skilled, Luka Doncic is arguably the best basketball player on the planet.

An MVP finalist alongside SGA and Nikola Jokic, Doncic put together an otherworldly season. Falling just shy of averaging a triple-double, Luka posted 33.9 points per game, 9.2 rebounds, and 9.8 assists.

These numbers led to Luka being fifth in the NBA in win shares at 12.0. Facing a player at the level Doncic is in the playoffs will be quite the test for this Thunder team.

As if Luka wouldn’t give the Thunder enough fits, you still can’t forget about Kyrie Irving.

The eight-time All-Star is one of the craftiest talents in the game. Irving averaged 25.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.2 assists over the course of the regular season.

Running through these two guards, the Mavericks had the sixth-highest pace of play in the league this year. For most other teams that could raise an issue, but the energetic and youthful Thunder might just be able to thrive from it.

Neutralizing these two superstars will be a tough task, but if there is a team who can do it, there’s no reason it can’t be the gritty defense of the Thunder.

A round-two matchup against the Mavericks could be exactly what the Thunder need or it could be the beginning of the end of their season.