Dallas Mavericks (18-7 SU, 13-12 ATS) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (12-11 SU, 14-9 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Wednesday, December 16, 2009, Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Okla. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Mavericks -2/Thunder +2
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A year ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder were one of the worst teams in the NBA. This season, they are fighting for a playoff spot. And it’s with basically the same exact team they had last year, just a year older. Coming off two straight losses to the Cavaliers and Nuggets, the Thunder will look to rebound with a win against the Dallas Mavericks.
Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki are both in the conversation for MVP at this juncture. Durant is carrying the Thunder with 28.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. He is shooting well from the field (46.3 percent) and the free throw line (88.6 percent), but his 3-point shooting is very poor at just 29 percent. Dirk Nowitzki, whose Mavericks are currently in first place, is averaging 26.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
Nowitzki’s points-per-game average is the highest of his career this season. Jason Kidd isn’t the same Jason Kidd who was considered the best point guard in the league a few years ago, but he is still an effective floor leader for the Mavs with 8.5 points, 9.1 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 42.4 percent from the 3-point line. His numbers aren’t as good as they were a few years ago, but the Mavs are plenty happy with Kidd dishing out nine assists per game. Jason Terry has been a big help in the scoring column with 17.1 points per game and Shawn Marion is adding 11.9 points per game. Josh Howard has had a tough year with an ankle injury, but he returned in the team’s last game against the Hornets on Monday to score 14 points and grab eight rebounds. Having him back and healthy is a huge key for the Mavs because of his length and versatility on both ends of the court.
If Durant were Michael Jordan, his Scottie Pippen would be point guard Russell Westbrook. The second year player from UCLA is scoring 16 points per game, dishing out 6.7 assists per game and grabbing 4.7 rebounds per game. One of the most consistent players for the Thunder this season is Jeff Green, who is averaging 14.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Green scored a season-high 26 points against the Cavaliers on Sunday. He has hit at least one 3-pointer in each of the last four games and has a total of eight 3-pointers in the last six games. Having a 6-foot-9 power forward who can step out and knock down perimeter shots makes it a lot tougher for teams to stop the Thunder. Rookie guard James Harden has also been solid with 9.2 points per game.
Westbrook and Kidd will be anice matchup of new school against old school when it comes to point guards. Westbrook has the size at 6-foot-4 to stop Kidd and he is probably too quick and fast for Kidd. Terry may have to guard Westbrook, in which case Kidd would have to defend Harden and/or Thabo Sefolosha. Howard or Marion will be guarding Durant, and either one of them are solid defenders that can use their length to disturb Durant. Durant probably isn’t strong enough to defend Nowitzki, so it will probably be Green defending him. If the Mavs have Howard, Marion and Nowitzki on the court at the same time, they will try to find a mismatch somewhere that they can exploit. The only spot the Thunder can really create a mismatch is with whoever Kidd is guarding. If it’s Sefolosha, he can post up Kidd and shoot over him. If it’s Harden, he can use his quickness to get to the basket. And of course, Westbrook can blow by Kidd and get to the hoop as well.
The Mavs are 1-4 ATS in their last five games. The Thunder are 3-1 ATS in their last four games. The total has not gone over in any of the Thunder’s last four games. The Thunder were 1-2 against the Mavs last season, but both losses were by four points or less.
Ryno’s Pick: Because of the even matchups at almost every position,
this should be a tight game the whole way through. Durant and Nowitzki can
both score a ton of points all over the court for their respective teams.
Marion and Howard for the Mavs and Green for the Thunder normally can create
mismatches, but if they are guarding each other they will cancel each other
out for the most part. Westbrook can dominate Kidd, but putting Terry on
him neutralizes that factor. The Mavs have one extra long athlete in their
frontcourt with Howard, Marion and Nowitzki all playing together, so that
gives them a slight advantage. But the Thunder playing at home and trying
to end a two-game losing streak gives them a slight advantage as well. In
the end it will be a close one, so take the home underdog. Take the Thunder
at +2 to cover the spread.