OKC-DAL Preview: 48 Minutes of Defense Needed Tonight

The mentalities are similar in both locker rooms, which is why the Thunder and Mavericks go to battle each time they face each other on the floor.

Regardless of the Thunder’s current 10-game winning streak in the rivalry that spans the end of the 2011-12 season, the 2012 Playoffs and the 2012-13 season, each game between these rivals has been hotly contested. Tonight when Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team hosts the Mavericks, all parties involved will be ready for a full-on dogfight.

“We always play each other very tough, no matter who is banged up and who is not, on our court or their court,” Brooks said. “I expect and anticipate a very exciting, challenging game for us.”

So far this season the 2-1 Thunder has done a solid job of holding its opponents in check, but each player knows the team can be better in a number of areas. Tonight against the 3-1 Mavericks, who have eight players averaging eight points-or-more, the Thunder will have to be prepared to defend every player for every second on the shot clock. Dallas is averaging the second most points in the NBA per game and fourth most assists per contest, so it will be up to the Thunder to clamp down.

“They have the makings to be one of the best offensive teams because they have a very high basketball IQ,” Brooks said. “They have a good way of moving the ball. They have some guys that can put the ball in the basket.”

The two most important areas on the floor where the Thunder will have to perform are in transition and in the paint. Preventing fast break points is a crucial element in keeping opponent’s field goal percentage low, because it forces them to run offensive sets in the half court against a defense that is already in position. Walling off the paint in isolation and the pick-and-roll is also essential, as forward Kevin Durant explained at this morning’s shoot-around, which focused on the defensive side of the ball.

“We pride ourselves on the defensive end,” Durant said. “In transition defense we definitely have to be better. We have to sprint back. Just like we want to sprint on offense, we have to sprint on defense.”

“(Stopping penetration) is always a priority for us,” Durant continued. “The paint for any team on the offensive team is like the headquarters. You can get layups and kick out for threes. We have to cut that off.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder went 4-0 against the Mavericks in 2012-13, and overall is 11-7 against Dallas.

- Including the first round of the 2012 Playoffs, the Thunder has won 10 straight contests against the Mavericks.

- The Thunder went 43-16 (0.728) in games after wins during the 2012-13 regular season.

Broadcast Info:

8:30 p.m. CT. TV - Fox Sports Oklahoma. Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network