How the Oklahoma City Thunder Can Beat Their Nemesis, the Dallas Mavericks
The Oklahoma City lost to the Dallas Mavericks last night at the OKC Arena by a score of 103-93 in what has become a bitter cross-state rivalry between two Western Conference teams.
Dallas' greatest player, Dirk Nowitzki, got hurt in the first half and never played again, and Dallas' head coach Rick Carlise didn't even attend the game due to an illness. But it was the tenacity of Dallas' remaining players and coaches that was too much for a young up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder team to overcome.
This is the second straight defeat that the Oklahoma City Thunder has suffered to the Dallas Mavericks and one can clearly see that the Thunder are at least two to three impact players away from competing with the Mavs or having enough weapons to defeat them or any team like them in a Western Conference playoff series.
The fact of the matter is: some teams just don't match-up well with other teams, and this is the Oklahoma City Thunder's problem when they face the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks have perennial All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, and a cast of other great role players and savvy veterans like Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson.
The Thunder is the NBA's team of destiny, but right now they don't have enough weapons to compete with the Mavs even when the Mavs' best player gets hurt like in last night's game.
Play General Manager in the NBA for a moment and tell us what the Thunder Lack in order to get to the next level.
The Thunder have a promising cast of players, starting with emerging superstars Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook, the unheralded Jeff Green, lock-down two-guard Thabo Sefolosha, and wily veteran Nenad Krstic.
The Thunder also have role players like Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, promising second-year shooting-guard James Harden, or solid backup point guard Eric Maynor, who all play significant roles. But this hasn't proved to be enough to challenge the great teams in the Western Conference.
In order for the Thunder to get past the Dallas Mavericks, the first thing they need to do is get bigger and more physical. They also need the play and leadership of a few veteran players to come in and do the dirty work during crunch time. The sad part about this is: I don't know if this player even exists.
But how can other teams go out and stack their rosters with physical players at the center position and also with players that do the dirty work, but the Thunder can't?
It's definitely possible, but Thunder Management will have to move outside the box in order to make it happen.
It was also obvious during a recent game against the New York Knicks that the Thunder is a small team that also lacks the physical presence to compete with the older, more veteran-laden teams in either conference. An example of this is when Ronnie Turiaf threw a couple of fierce elbows at two Thunder players, and nothing was done by a Thunder enforcer to retaliate and send a message back to the Knicks.
When the Thunder have to face the likes of San Antonio, Los Angeles, Dallas, Utah or even Portland in a playoff game, Thunder fans get weak in the knees knowing that they don't have the physical specimens or veteran leadership to match up inside with those teams.
It was also obvious during last night's game that The Oklahoma City Thunder did not have the defensive capability to stop the Dallas Mavericks in crunch time. Jason Terry and other Maverick players scored seemingly at will on several uncontested jump-shots late in the game that obviously put a dagger in the Thunder's hopes to pull out a victory in front of the home crowd. This also shows the Thunder's lack of depth at key positions.
With Thabo Sefolosh being the Thunder's only legitimate defensive stopper, they had to rely on help-defense to stop the Mavericks. The Mavericks also used a zone defense similar to what the Phoenix Suns used last week to defeat the Thunder on this night.
So the word around the league on the best way to defeat the Thunder is: play them physically, use a zone defense, use great spot-up shooters, and watch them squirm.
Right now the Oklahoma City Thunder is falling into a similar rut like the Dallas Mavericks did a while back. They have a great nucleus of players, young and vibrant, they are entertaining and they play hard every night.
Who is the best match-up for the Thunder to get past the first round of the Playoffs this year?
They will probably win 50 or more games during the regular season, but when it comes down to the playoffs when they have to face a more experienced, more physical, and more veteran-laden team, they will undoubtedly come up short and lose the series.
So what does the Thunder's GM Sam Presti have to do in order to counter this obvious hurdle that his organization faces?
I really don't know and I am certainly not a GM with the knowledge and experience of a Sam Presti, but one thing is for sure: he has to spend some money and take a chance on a veteran free-agent or somebody who can come in and lead this team during crunch time.
He needs to land a player that can kick some ass. Point-blank, excuse my French.
These players would have to keep the Thunder from getting pushed around so that they can win games in the crunch that usually go down to the buzzer or that are won entirely in the fourth quarter.
Maybe try talking Rasheed Wallace out of retirement or a player like him, because this is exactly the type of player that the Thunder needs. Certainly not the non-basketball shenanigans that he was known for, but his fierce competitiveness and veteran leadership.
Dallas has centers Brenden Haywood and Tyson Chandler. The Thunder countered with Serge Ibaka and Nenad Krstic. The Thunder also have Byron Mullins and Cole Aldridge so it's not like they lack size, but winning the overall match-up at this position and in crunch time seems to be a big hurdle.
Thunder fans might argue this matchup was a draw, but there will be no arguments when the conversation turns toward the fact that it was a host of savvy veterans that the Mavericks possessed that the Thunder lacked, that actually made the difference in last night's game.
The Mavericks and teams like them will continue to be the nemesis that the Thunder will encounter on their way to getting past the first round of the playoffs in a very tough and competitive Western Conference.
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