NBA Picks: Thunder at Mavericks Game 1 Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 5/17/2011
It will be the typical rest vs. rust debate when the NBA’s Western Conference Finals tip off tonight in Dallas as the Thunder visit the Mavericks for Game 1. Did you even remember that Dallas was still in the NBA playoffs? It will have been eight days off by the time the Mavs take the court on Tuesday since they swept away the two-time reigning champion Lakers so impressively. All that time off could be a great thing for Dallas, however, as it is the third-oldest team in the NBA. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, got stretched to a Game 7 on Sunday in its series with Memphis. The Thunder are the third-youngest team in the Association so the quick turnaround shouldn’t be a huge problem.
Thunder at Mavericks Betting Story Lines
The Mavericks have opened as -210 series favorites on Bodog. They took two of three from Oklahoma City during the regular season. But you may not be able to read a ton into that. For one, Dallas still had a healthy Caron Butler in those two wins. Butler averaged 18.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in those victories. He missed the team’s final matchup vs. OKC with a knee injury and is still thought to be finished for the season, although Mavs coach Rick Carlisle hasn’t officially ruled him out for this series as Butler works hard to try and get back.
As for the Thunder’s lone win in the series, 99-95 on Jan. 6 in Dallas, the Mavericks were without obviously Butler, but also superstar Dirk Nowitzki for that one. Dirk hurt his knee in the Dec. 27 103-93 Dallas win in OKC, leaving early in the second quarter and then missing the next nine games.
Kevin Durant was excellent against the Mavericks this year, averaging 29.3 points on 52.4 percent shooting. But point guard Russell Westbrook struggled, averaging 14.3 points on just 31.8 percent shooting. Both players come off brilliant efforts in Game 7 vs. Memphis, with Durant scoring 39 points (the fifth-most in a Game 7 in the past 15 years) and Westbrook putting up just the fifth Game 7 triple-double ever. In 12 playoff games, he's scored 27 or more points five times and dished at least six assists eight times, including twice hitting double figures. He had been criticized somewhat for shooting too much before that Game 7, however.
By the way, how young are the Thunder? Westbrook and Durant are, combined, only six years older than Mavericks starting point guard Jason Kidd. And Kidd probably will be the guy to be locked on Westbrook often, although look for the Mavs to use DeShawn Stevenson a lot to help keep Kidd fresh. But Kidd was very good defensively on Kobe Bryant in the last series. Shawn Marion figures to get the most looks on Durant.
Nowitzi was essentially unguardable in the Lakers’ series and averaged 23.5 points on 61.9 percent shooting vs. the Thunder in the regular season. The Thunder are likely to stick jumping jack Serge Ibaka and his massive wingspan on Dirk, although Nick Collison also will see some time defensively on Nowitzki. The Dallas X-factor likely will be Peja Stojakovic and his ability to knock down three-pointers, which he’s done at a 46.2 percent rate thus far this postseason. He made all six three-pointers in the clincher against the Lakers, and was 9-of-13 shooting from behind the arc in the final two games of the series.
Thunder at Mavericks Betting Odds and Key Trends
Dallas is a six-point favorite with the total at 193, according to NBA odds.
OKC has covered in 10 of its past 15 road games. But the Thunder have covered just once in their past five after a win.
Dallas has covered in its past eight home games.
The ‘under’ has hit in six of OKC’s past nine road games.
The ‘over’ is 6-1 in the Mavs’ past seven following a win.
NBA Picks: Thunder at Mavericks Predictions
This matchup looks awfully even and probably depends on which Westbrook shows up. When he thinks pass-first, OKC is almost unbeatable. For example, the Thunder had 25 assists, led by Westbrook's 14, in Game 7 against Memphis. The Thunder had been averaging 17.5 in the series and never had more than 17 in the five-game Denver series. OKC should win the rebounding battle, although Dallas did hold its own against the huge frontline of the Lakers. But obviously Dallas has a massive edge in experience and that usually shows through at crunch time. The Mavs have outscored foes by 29 points in 19 minutes during the playoffs when the score is within five points in the final five minutes.
So I think the Mavs do win this series. But all that time off is concerning for Game 1. Since 1964, 18 teams that have had eight or more days off between series and are 9-9 in Game 1, but have won 11 of the series. So take Dallas to win in seven but fail to cover in the opener. And go with the ‘over’.
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