Preview: Winning streaks collide as Mavs welcome in league-best Thunder
Preview: Thunder (31-8) at Mavericks (17-23)
Winning streaks collide as Mavs welcome in league-best Thunder
Capturing wins over Memphis, Minnesota and Houston to begin their homestand while also extending a season-best winning streak out to four straight victories, the Mavericks (17-23) have taken advantage of their opposition’s scheduling while all three teams played their second game in as many nights. Friday night, however, the Thunder (31-8) will be well-rested as the Oklahoma City squad travels south down Interstate 35 for the first time since sweeping the Mavericks out of the first round of the playoffs last season.
But the Mavs won’t have to look too far for motivation to continue their winning ways as the Dallas team tries to avenge a 111-105 overtime road loss on Dec. 27. And with the bitterness of that loss in the first meeting between the two squads still lingering in the Mavericks’ mouths, they’ll try to finish off their stretch at home by ending the Thunder’s five-game winning streak to add another blemish to the best record in the league.
“It was a tough loss,” four-time All-Star Shawn Marion said while looking back to last month’s overtime defeat. “You know, they’re going to be ready and they’re playing really good ball right now. We know what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to take care of this home court and make our presence felt out there.”
“Oklahoma City’s a juggernaut. I mean, they’re kicking everybody’s [tail] and they’re making it look easy a lot of nights,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle added. “So, for us, we’ve got to continue with low turnovers, we’ve got to rebound against them and our movement has got to be terrific.”
Playoffs included, the Thunder has won seven straight meetings between the two squads, after three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant exploded for 40 points in the first meeting while 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki made his second appearance of the season off the bench to score nine points on just 3-of-11 shooting in the loss.
Led by a season-high 32 points from point guard Darren Collison in his head-to-head matchup against All-Star lead guard and former UCLA teammate Russell Westbrook, who finished with 16 points and 10 assists, the Mavs very nearly pulled off an upset on the Thunder’s home hardwood back in December after Collison’s floating, one-foot 3-pointer as time expired sent the game into overtime. The Mavs also managed to outshoot the Thunder on the night, 42.1 percent to 41.9 percent, while sprinting to a lead as large as 11 despite losing the rebounding edge, 56-46, to go along with 13 turnovers for 23 Oklahoma City points.
Now, the Mavericks will try to complete the task on their own floor, holding the three previous opponents on their current homestand to averages of 93.7 points and 39.5 percent shooting.
“I got a lot of feedback from that shot, but you know, OKC is a team we’re definitely trying to beat right now and it’s going to be a good game on Friday,” Collison simply said as he looks for an encore performance.
“I think we’re competing. I think we’ve still got plenty of room to improve,” Nowitzki added. “We’ve made some mistakes, especially with leads. We’re giving the leads away way too quick, so we’ve got to make sure we stay solid and make solid plays on both ends of the floor; not give up layups, not give up free throws and on offense still keep moving the ball and taking good shots. So I think sometimes we get a little carried away when we have a lead, so we’ve got to make sure we protect leads better and we’ve got to keep on working. We know that to get even better. We’ve got a great team coming in here [Friday] and it should be a fun challenge.”
Note: The Mavericks return to action at the American Airlines Center for the finale of their four-game homestand Friday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder leads the season series 1-0 after downing the Mavs in a 111-105 overtime road loss on Dec. 27. The game will air locally at 8:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest and nationally on ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.