With just 11 games left, the Dallas Mavericks are fighting for one of the last two spots in the Western Conference. Every game is even more crucial than the one before it from here on out.
Their battle to make the postseason continues Tuesday night and it won’t be an easy game to win, as they are hosting the team with the second best record in their conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Mavs (42-29) will start the night off in ninth place despite having the same record as the eighth place Phoenix Suns, who have the tiebreaker against them due to a better conference record, and .5 games behind the seventh place Memphis Grizzlies.
The Thunder (52-18) are also in a battle of their own as they are looking to claim the top spot in the conference and obtain home-court advantage in the playoffs. Right now, they sit two games behind the San Antonio Spurs for first place, but they will be hard to catch as they are sporting a 13-game win streak. To sum it up, both teams are looking to make moves in the standings as they prepare for a (potential for the Mavs) playoff run.
This will be the third and final meeting between these two squads in the regular season. The first two were in Oklahoma City and both teams have each had a double-digit win. Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 16.5 points on 45.8 percent shooting and five rebounds in this matchup. Shawn Marion has also played well, averaging 18 points on 60 percent shooting from the field. He has also made four of his six three-point attempts. Kevin Durant is averaging 26.5 points and seven assists so far this season against the Mavericks.
The Mavericks won the most recent matchup between the two teams on March 16. They shot 53 percent from the field and 54 percent from beyond the arc. The Thunder shot 36 and 31 percent, respectively, resulting in a 23-point loss. There are a couple of keys to this game for each team. First for the Thunder is the game-changer Russell Westbrook. Westbrook scored 22 points on 10-20 shooting in the first matchup, but he didn’t play in the latest meeting (coach’s decision). Although he didn’t play Monday night, Westbrook has sat out the the first game of doubleheaders for precautionary reasons (three knee surgeries does that to you) so he will most likely play Tuesday. Just like every game, his performance will impact the outcome for the Thunder.
For the Mavericks, Vince Carter will be a key player in Tuesday night’s matchup. Carter had zero points on four shots in 14 minutes the first time these two teams met, the game the Mavericks lost. In the last game, Carter had 18 points in 21 minutes and he made four of his eight three-point attempts. Coincidentally, they won that game. As for all NBA teams, bench play is key and for the Mavericks to get an advantage in bench production, they will need “Vincesanity” to give them a boost.
The Pick: This will be a very good offensive game and I think it will be closer than the first two games were. The Thunder score 106 points per game, the Mavs score 104 and they both shoot an efficient 47 percent from the field. It should be a fun game to watch and expect the Mavericks’ crowd to be loud and into the game as their team needs a big win. Like I said before, bench play will be very key. In their two games against each other this season, the winner had more bench points. I also think that three-point shooting will be significant as well. The Mavericks shoot 38 percent on the season, two percent higher than the Thunder, so they have the slight advantage there. They will, on the other hand, have the tough task of finding a way to slow down Kevin Durant, who has scored 25+ points in a career-high 35 straight games. This won’t be easy, but if they hold him to 25 that will be a small victory. The Mavericks need this one and I think they get it, 103-100. Durant will keep the streak alive, though.