No. 3 Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27) vs No. 6 Dallas Mavericks (42-40)
Regular season series: Thunder won, 4-0. Two of the Thunder wins were close (by three points in both games – one home and one away) while the other two wins were blowouts (by 13 points in Dallas and 19 points in Oklahoma City).
The Thunder will face the Mavericks in the opening round, with the series kicking off from Oklahoma City on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. EST. OKC swept all four games against Dallas during the regular season by nearly a double-digit margin (9.5 points) and averaged 112.5 points per contest against a Mavericks’ defense that surrendered an average of 102.3 points per game throughout the regular season. Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle is generally known for his creative schemes and defensive tactics in a series, but the trouble is the Mavericks still tend to struggle to defend against perimeter scorers like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
While Deron Williams has played at a high level in the past, you’d still expect Westbrook – second in the NBA in assists per contest, with 10.4 APG – to get the better of that matchup. And even if the Mavericks’ Chandler Parsons hadn’t recently endured season-ending surgery, Dallas would be in for a tough time against Durant (28.2 points per game). Now, without Parsons, expect a defense-by-committee approach on Durant that will likely be in vain. Even though Steven Adams is starting at center for the Thunder, don’t be surprised to see a productive series from Enes Kanter in this matchup.
All-in-all, the games should be somewhat competitive, but ultimately the Thunder should take care of business relatively quickly. Carlisle’s matchup with a first-year head coach in Billy Donovan is the one area where Dallas should hold a considerable advantage, but the talent on the court will still determine the outcome for this series.
Thunder win Game 1.
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