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Do The Oklahoma City Thunder Have Any Chance Of Beating The Dallas Mavericks?

Submitted by on May 17, 2011 – 8:57 am2 Comments

So, the Dallas Mavericks didn’t get the Western Conference Finals matchup they were hoping for on Sunday afternoon. While the Memphis Grizzlies took the Oklahoma City Thunder to a Game 7 in their best-of-7 playoff series, the whole “we want the Grizzlies” thing that Mavs guard J.J. Barea spoke about last week didn’t come true because the Thunder were able to outlast the Grizz by a large margin in the deciding game. But, is that really such a bad thing for the Mavs? After all, the Thunder have struggled to keep superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the same page and they did just go to seven games with the No. 8 seed in the West—so do the Mavs really have anything to worry about?

In a word: YES! First off, the Mavs have been sitting pretty since last Sunday when they finished their sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers waiting for the winner of the Grizzlies/Thunder series to emerge. And while this is good for some of the team’s veterans like Jason Kidd, the Mavs were riding a nice streak of momentum after Game 4 of their series with the Lakers, a momentum that’s all but dissipated in the week since that series ended.

Secondly, the Thunder—while certainly emotionally exhausted from playing a seven-game series—seemed to hit a stride by the time Game 7 of the Grizzlies’ series game around. They struggled a bit at the beginning of the series, even dropping a game at home, but had no problem putting the Grizz away in Game 7. They’re also an incredibly young team, meaning they don’t need the type of recovery time that the Mavs do. A break probably wouldn’t kill them at this point, but it’s likely that Durant and Westbrook would like to get back onto the court ASAP.

Another big factor in this series is that, while the Mavs have had time to sit around and get ready for the Western Conference Finals, they found out who they were going to play on Sunday afternoon. So it’s not like they have a distinct advantage as far as planning for their opponent goes. Conversely, the Thunder assistant coaches and scouts likely started pre-planning for the Mavs a few days ago just in case they were able to squeak by the Grizzlies. And in that regard, that actually works in their favor and ends up giving them the advantage over the Mavs.

But the number-one reason the Mavs should worry is that the Thunder appear to have Durant and Westbrook playing together as a tandem again. While they lacked the chemistry that they’ve shown in the past at times during the Grizzlies series, they stepped it up in Game 7 and proved that they can both achieve great things when they each do what they do best. Westbrook ended that game with a triple-double, while Durant scored 39 points. Both contributed in a big way and complimented each other very well.

We also cannot overlook the fact that Durant is a bonafide superstar at this point in his career. So while everyone will be focused on Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls taking on the Miami Heat with their triple threat of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, we wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see Durant steal all the headlines during the Conference Finals and will his team to a victory.

The Thunder may not have home-court advantage in the Western Conference Finals. They may not have the credentials that some of the guys on the Mavericks have. And they may not get all the rest they need to fully recover from the series against the Grizzlies. But we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them win their series against the Mavs. In fact, if 2011 really does represent a changing of the guard in the NBA like so many anaylsts have predicted with the Lakers and Boston Celtics ceding control to younger teams, we’re almost expecting it. Aren’t you?

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