Preview: Dirk hopeful to return in OKC as Mavs try to avenge OT losses
Preview: Mavericks (20-27) at Thunder (35-12)
Dirk hopeful to return in OKC as Mavs try to avenge OT losses
OKLAHOMA CITY — After two overtime losses for his squad to the reigning Western Conference champions, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle enters Monday night’s matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder with one emphasis for his players: finish.
Suffering a 111-105 overtime road loss on Dec. 27 before also falling to a 117-114 OT defeat at home on Jan. 18 in the two prior contests against the Thunder, the Mavericks (20-27) enter Monday night’s showdown well aware that they may be tested for more than 48 minutes of action. With that said, Carlisle hopes that the Mavs can build off Friday night’s 35-point fourth quarter during a 109-99 win in Phoenix to move to 1-2 on their four-game road trip, looking to carry that momentum into Chesapeake Energy Arena as the Mavs try to outlast Oklahoma City (35-12) on its home floor.
“We’ve got to make one or two more plays,” Carlisle matter-of-factly said. “One more stop, one more bucket, one more blockout, one less turnover, and it’s hung on that delicate of a balance. With a team like theirs, that has that kind of talent and now they’ve gained a lot of experience, you’ve got to be precise. So that’s how we’re going to have to play.
“We’ve got to look forward. We know how close we have been and we know how close we are,” he added. “And we’re going to keep fighting to get to the hump and get over it.”
That precision will also be needed as the Mavs try to contain three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant, who posted a career-high 52 points on 13-of-31 shooting and 5-of-9 from 3-point range to go along with nine rebounds in that January meeting, hitting 21-of-21 from the foul line compared to the Mavs’ 30 attempts as a team. And with Durant nursing a sore lower back suffered in Cleveland on Saturday during a 115-110 loss, the Mavs will try to keep the lethal scoring threat silenced.
Meanwhile, Nowitzki hopes to return to action after missing the last two games with a strained right adductor injury. And after returning to practice Sunday, the 7-footer says he’ll be ready to go barring any setback in the team’s Monday morning shootaround, looking to improve on averages of 13.5 points on 26.7 percent shooting in the two losses to Oklahoma City this season while also trying to bring an end to the Thunder’s 13-game winning streak at home against Western Conference teams.
“I feel OK,” Nowitzki said. “I went through most of the stuff (in practice). I did a little running, a little shooting afterwards. Things are good. It’s pulling a little bit, but as long as it doesn’t grab on me and completely tighten up, it’s fine. … Hopefully there’s no setbacks, I go through the whole shootaround and hopefully will be a go.”
Note: The Mavericks will conclude their road trip Monday night in Oklahoma City, looking to avenge two overtime losses to the reigning Western Conference champion Thunder. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7 p.m. CT.