Dallas has a serious storm approaching.
The Oklahoma City Thunder won a series for the ages against Memphis and the Mavericks are well rested and riding a wave of confidence having swept the two-time defending champion Lakers.
This series is extremely difficult to predict. I thought the Mavericks would have an advantage in the big man department, but after watching Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed step up along with Kendrick Perkins and the athletic Serge Ibaka, I think it's a wash now.
My golf buddy Jason Kidd has got to be relieved he has gotten a week's rest now having to deal with the Derrick Rose of the West in Russell Westbrook. Westbrook did something in Game 7 that I feel like he can do every game. If he's into it, he's no doubt the next big-time triple-double player in the league.
Westbrook will be facing a player in Kidd that dominated games in that fashion throughout his career and is now dominating games with leadership and consistent three-point shooting.
The benches are going to be huge and therein lies the key. The most important players will be Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic and Jose Juan Barea against James Harden, Collison and Eric Maynor. The Mavs have a slight advantage, but Harden could even the score if he plays consistent.
I saved the best for last and that's because I think it will only be a factor in the last two minutes. Although they will never guard one another, Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki will have monster series. These two are direct mirror images in that they create nightmare matchup problems for both teams.
Durant was inconsistent down the stretch in a few games during the Memphis series and Dallas is hoping Shawn Marion will be their Shane Battier. I really don’t see that happening because Battier forced Durant to the film room and he made the adjustments necessary to explode in Game 7.
Nowitzki is just pure money offensively and the Thunder honestly has no one on their roster that will bother him. Serge Ibaka will get the job probably and that, quite honestly, removes their best defender away from the basket, which makes the Thunder defense vulnerable.
A number of games are coming down to the last two minutes. The question is... Who will be the best closer? My answer is below in my prediction.
The Mavericks will win if...
- Jason Kidd can withstand the frenetic offensive Westbrook in key periods of games.
- The Mavericks' bench dominates as expected.
- Shawn Marion stays out of foul trouble against Durant (he is their only defender against him).
The Thunder will win if...
- Russell Westbrook plays a great all-around series, similar to what he did in Game 7.
- James Harden helps the Thunder bench offset a potent Maverick unit.
- Serge Ibaka forces Nowitzki into a poor series shooting the ball.
- This series will be very close and a number of games could come down to a final shot. The Mavericks are veterans playing against young guns... Since this is a series to reach the Finals, Dallas has an advantage. I also believe Nowitzki is the best closer here and that’s a big plus. I am a Seattle SuperSonic alum and still have problems with that great city losing its team, but I believe the die-hards back in Seattle are cheering privately for the Thunder to advance to the Finals.
Sorry, it will not happen this year because the Mavericks are too deep. Dallas 4, Oklahoma City 3.
SCHEDULE: May 17, May 19, May 21, May 23, May 25, May 27 and May 29 / Dallas Mavericks won the regular season series 2-1.