NBA Playoffs 2011: 12 Bold Predictions for Dallas Mavericks vs. OKC Thunder
The Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder are set for what is sure to be an epic Western Conference Finals.
The two teams finished a respective third and fourth during the regular season, and each team boasts a collection of superstars that have gotten them to this point. Their paths to the WCF have been quite different, however.
After beating an exciting Portland Trail Blazers team in the first round of the 2011 NBA playoffs, Dallas shocked the world and swept the defending champion LA Lakers to reach the WCF for the first time since the 2005-06 NBA postseason. Dirk Nowitzki has his veteran team playing together and riding with confidence entering the WCF.
Led by young superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the West’s “it” team. After beating the Denver Nuggets in the opening round, the Thunder ground out an epic seven-game bout against the up-and-coming Memphis Grizzlies.
This series boasts two of the NBA’s most prolific offenses in what is sure to be a tightly fought battle. Here are 12 bold predictions for the Western Conference Finals.
12. Oklahoma City Will Steal a Game in Dallas
Kevin Durant and his young guns showed incredible resilience in their series against Memphis. Led by a collective team performance, OKC will steal a game in Dallas, sending the series back to OKC 1-1.
11. Peja Stojakovic Will Give the Mavericks a Huge Boost off the Bench
A midseason acquisition for the Mavs, Peja Stojakovic has been on a tear during these playoffs.
The savvy veteran has his three-point shot dropping, and it has shown during the 2011 NBA Playoffs. The veteran guard dropped a staggering six three-pointers alone in a Game 4 clincher against the Lakers.
The Thunder will have no answer for Stojakovic, as the guard will continue his hot streak throughout this series. Expect Stojakovic to have another Game 4-like performance and knock down at least five threes in a game.
10. The Birth of the “I-35 Rivalry”
Before the Thunder’s arrival from Seattle, Oklahoma and Texas only looked at each other from a college sports standpoint. OU (along with OSU) and UT dominated the sports landscape, as Oklahoma had no professional teams.
This all changed with the arrival of the Thunder in Oklahoma City. This series will mark the first round of what is to become an exciting rivalry between the two cities located in America’s midsection. The series will be called the “I-35 Rivalry.”
9. Russell Westbrook Will Outperform Jason Kidd
Much has been made of Russell Westbrook’s erratic play that has often cost the Thunder during this year’s playoffs. He will have his hands full guarding a future Hall of Famer/pass-first point guard in Jason Kidd.
That being said, Jason Kidd will have his hands even more full guarding a younger, faster point guard in Russell Westbrook. J Kidd will not have the energy or quickness to keep up with RW, and Westbrook will have several great performances in this series.
Westbrook will also take notes on what it means to be a “pass-first” PG from one of the all-time greats.
8. Dirk Nowitzki Will Be Too Much for Serge Ibaka to Handle
Dirk Nowitzki has been on a tear so far during these playoffs, and his hot play will continue in the Western Conference Finals.
Serge Ibaka has quickly become Dikemebe Mutumbo Jr. (with offense) with his finger wag and shot-blocking ability. His defensive presence has been a huge lift for the Thunder on the defensive end along with fellow big man Kendrick Perkins.
That being said, he will not be able to contain Nowitzki, whose ability to extend defenses gives every team fits and will do so against the Thunder. He will have several huge games against the Thunder, leading the Mavs to victory.
7. Better Move: Rescinding the Tyson Chandler Trade or Trading for K Perk?
In 2009, Tyson Chandler was traded from New Orleans to Oklahoma City for Chris Wilcox, Joe Smith and the rights to Devon Hardin. The trade was later rescinded, sighting injury concerns from the Thunder medical staff.
While lackluster on the offensive end, Perkins has given the Thunder a much-needed boost on the defensive end of the floor with his size and low post-defense.
Which move ended up being the right decision for the Thunder? This series will give some insight, and something tells me Perkins and Chandler will have an evenly matched battle with Chandler making his share of shots and Perkins getting his share of blocks.
6. James Harden Will Have Several Clutch Performances
The X-factor in this series could very well be James Harden. While Scott Brooks continues to start Thabo Sefolosha at shooting guard, Harden gives the Thunder an offensive boost off the bench.
Harden will come up big for the Thunder with several 15-point outbursts that lead the Thunder to victory, showing people why he will most likely be starting for the Thunder next season at shooting guard.
5. Dirk Will Go for 45 in a Game
As mentioned earlier, Dirk Nowitzki is as good of shooter as they come, and he will show off his offensive talent in this series.
Nowitzki will go for 45 in a game and lead the Mavs to several runaway victories. Serge will be unable to slow down the unstoppable German. Nowitzki is one of the greatest shooters of this era, and the world will see why.
4. Dallas Will Win an Epic Game 6 in Oklahoma City
After stealing a game in Dallas, Oklahoma City will be up 3-2 with a chance to go to the ultimate stage, the NBA Finals.
While the game will be close, Dallas’ veterans will come up huge for the Mavs and send the series back to Dallas for an epic Game 7. Huge performances by Jason Terry, J.J. Barea and Nowitzki will put Dallas over the edge.
3. Kevin Durant Will Not Be Stopped
KD will not disappoint in his first trip to the Western Conference Finals. Durant will completely abuse Shawn Marion and show the league why he is the NBA’s best pure scorer.
The Mavs will switch off between Marion and Nowitzki in attempt to slow down the Durantula but will not be able to stop the young gun.
2. Nate Robinson Will Get a Shot at J Kidd and JJ Barea
Outside of garbage minutes at the end of games, Robinson hasn’t gotten much of a chance to play in the first two rounds.
Due to their size, Robinson will get a chance to go up against Kidd and Barea and contribute both on offense and defense. He showed flashes of brilliance for the Celtics during the 2010 NBA Playoffs and will get his chance during this series.
1. The Thunder Will Win This Series in 7 Games
While it will be epic, the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will be too much for the veterans in Dallas to handle. Dallas' experience and veteran leadership will prove more mature at times, but OKC's quickness and energy will be too much to handle for Dirk and the Mavs.
Game 7 will be a showdown for the ages with OKC shocking the world and defeating Dallas at the American Airlines Center. Oklahoma City will move on to the greatest basketball stage on the planet, the NBA Finals.