2011 NBA Playoffs Preview: Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, Game 1
Game one of the Dallas Mavericks vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder is tonight at 9 PM ET and it should be a great game. Both teams match up well and the stakes are high. Will the up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder break through and reach their first NBA Finals together? Or will the Dallas Mavericks return to the NBA Finals for the first time since their epic meltdown in the 2006 Finals? The winner of the first game usually goes on to win the series. Read on to see who wins Game 1.
How They Got Here
The Oklahoma City Thunder survived a tough seven game series with the Memphis Grizzlies, winning Game 7 at home. Before that, they defeated the Denver Nuggets in five games.
The Dallas Mavericks just came off their much talked about four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers and they should be well rested for Game 1 today. Before that, they beat the Portland Trailblazers in six games.
Dallas Mavericks: Keys to a Game 1 Victory
The Dallas Mavericks match up fairly well with the Oklahoma City Thunder and they don't have to change much in order to win Game 1. They really need to just do what they do, which means solid defense and a heavy dose of Dirk Nowitzki.
If they can get either Kendrick Perkins or Serge Ibaka in foul trouble, the battle for boards will be a lot easier. Also look for Tyson Chandler to be the key player for the Mavericks other than Dirk. Chandler's weak-side defense will be instrumental because Russell Westbrook loves to drive and the Thunder are a different team when he isn't allowed penetration. Chandler is long enough to disrupt most shots and if he can do so without getting in foul trouble, then the defense of the Mavs will be excellent.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Keys to a Game 1 Victory
The Oklahoma City Thunder know they will get solid production from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but who will be the third and fourth scorers? Usually it's James Harden and Serge Ibaka, but lately Ibaka has been in foul trouble and hasn't played well. The Thunder really need someone other than the above mentioned names to step up. If someone like Thabo Sefolosha or Nick Collison can get going offensively, then the Thunder will be hard to beat.
Look for the Thunder to play Dirk Nowitzki straight up on defense with Serge Ibaka and Ibaka should be very aggressive on offense, trying to get Dirk in foul trouble. If Dirk gets in foul trouble, the game completely changes for Dallas.
Who Wins Game 1?
The Mavs have home court and their fans are going to be extremely rowdy for Game 1. It will be very loud inside American Airlines Center and the Mavs will feed off that energy. Look for the Mavs to establish Dirk early and often.
The Thunder should be used to playing in raucous environments after playing in Memphis and they should handle the noise level just fine. Russell Westbrook needs to be as unselfish as he was in Game 7 of the Memphis series or else the league's leading scorer won't be able to impact the game as much.
After being down at halftime, the Thunder make a run in the second half but come up short with the Mavs closing the game out at the free throw line as time runs down.
Mavs win 104-99