NBA Western Conference Championship Preview: Thunder v. Mavericks

The Mavs looked to have the better of this matchup during the regular season, but all three games were played before the trade that sent Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic to the Celtics for Kendrick Perkins.  So this is an extremely difficult series to handicap.                                          

The main focus of interest, naturally, will be around Nowitzki and Durant, and the schemes to contain them.  It looks like the Thunder will open with Ibaka against Nowitzki, which will cause the Thunder all sorts of problems on defense. First of all, because Ibaka can probably do little to slow Dirk out on the perimeter.  But second and more importantly, because Ibaka will be out on the perimeter, away from the rim-defense at which he excels.  For this reason, I would not be at all surprised to see the Thunder go small in this series, with Durant at the four against Nowitzki, and Ibaka at the five.

The Mavs on the other hand have a couple of natural defenders for Durant, Marion and Stevenson.  And Nowitzki shouldn’t have too much trouble defending Ibaka, as he’s not a big focus of the Thunder’s offense.

All the more reason for the Thunder to go small.  What happens if Durant is the four?  Do the Mavs dare guard him with Nowitzki?  I doubt it.  It might force the Mavs into a zone, or make them go small to matchup.  If Chandler is forced out of the game, that will be a huge win for the Thunder.  The Mavs will be defenseless against Westbrook’s penetration.

Which leads us to the other great question: How will the Mavs contain Westbrook?  I don’t see any individual defenders on the Mavs that can guard him.  So I anticipate we will see some sort of trapping designed to get the ball out of his hands.  Will Westbrook continue to find the open man, as he did so well in game 7 of the Memphis series?  Or will he revert to trying to take the game over himself?

Carlisle is a fantastic coach, and he has a lot of pieces at his disposal. I like his chances to find the right combination of players and the right scheme against the Thunder.  And in general, I like the Mavs roster over the Thunders.  I like Chandler over Perkins.  I like Kidd’s leadership over Westbrook’s.  I like the Mavs overall experience.  And I continue to think that the Thunder’s lack of outside shooting is going to bite them at some point.  The Mavs have a huge edge in three point shooting, as the Lakers discovered.

So I’m betting the Mavs to win the series at -250, right?  Ummm, no.  One thing the Mavs don’t have is the next face of the NBA.  He’s on the Thunder.  I’m sitting this one out, unless I find a game line I disagree with.

47 Responses to NBA Western Conference Championship Preview: Thunder v. Mavericks

  1. Felt, in responding to your comments on the other page, I’m hardly naive when it comes to “cheating” in sports. From the Black Sox to Gaylord Perry to steroid use to NFL teams filming other teams practices to Donaghy, etc. The examples are there to be found, over the many decades. But there’s a huge difference between the extremely rare instances of outright scandal (Black Sox, Donaghy) and “cheating” in an attempt to be better.

    Gaylord Perry threw spitters so he could win more games and help his team win more often. Athletes took steroids to increase their chances of success in whatever their sport. Medication is most often associated with “cheating” in horseracing, and said medication is ostensibly used to make a horse perform better and win more often. However misguided, the overwhelming examples of “cheating” in sports has to do with trying to be better than your competitors. Even Pete Rose bet on his OWN TEAM to WIN. What you’re preaching, predetermining the outcome of games and series via David Stern/officiating duplicity, is something altogether different. And given the fact that the Black Sox and Donaghy events were relatively close to 100 yrs apart, it’s my opinion your conspiracy theories prove correct about as often.

    And speaking of conspiratorial paranoia, did you not check out my link to the “Hangtime Blog”?………..

    “First off, Crawford, Smith and Mauer went to their whistles less often than a typical NBA playoff game requires. There were 28 fouls called in the game – 15 against Miami, 13 against Chicago – compared to a league average in 2010-11 of 41.43. Prior to Game 1, Chicago had averaged 20.2 fouls per game in the postseason, with Miami at 17.6. And they were on the low end – 13th and 16th, respectively – among the 16 playoffs teams (Oklahoma City, by comparison, is the hackingest this spring at 25.3 fpg).”

    Your “face of the NBA”, Durant and OKC, have been called for the MOST FOULS thus far in the playoffs. Apparently those duplicit refs never received that memo from Stern. LOL

  2. Steve, now you seem to be arguing what has actually gone on in these playoffs, which is fine by me. That is quite a different position than you had before, which was that it doesn’t merit discussion.

    If you’d like to discuss what has happened in past NBA playoffs, read Bill Simmons on the subject, watch the games he mentions, and then get back to me. It’s futile to discuss this in the abstract.

    Now I’m going to kick back, pour myself a snifter, and rewatch one of the great playoff shootouts in history.

  3. Some good postseason analysis from the Barry boys.

    Jon Barry…….. http://www.knbr.com/portals/3/podcasts/fitzbrooks/0516barry.mp3

  4. “Collison got the next crack. But the same physicality that assisted Collison in keeping Memphis’ Zach Randolph in check in the previous series was whistled a foul Tuesday.”

    http://newsok.com/dirk-nowitzki-scores-48-points-as-mavericks-defeat-thunder/article/3569040#ixzz1MiyAvzWj

  5. question for the savants here : of the thousands of box scores and games you’ve seen, has a player with ten shot attempts or more achieved an efficiency of three or more points per attempt, with ø three point attempts ? my guess, nowitski’s accomplishment might be unique, and remain so, because the three point shot has become so prevalent. with regard to this playoff series, this means that Dal still has more variations to apply against brooks’ defenses.

  6. Wolves general manager David Kahn said he knew Minnesota was “dead” when it got down to the final three of himself, Utah executive Kevin O’Connor and Nick Gilbert.

    “This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines,” Kahn said. “Last year it was Abe Pollin’s widow and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told Kevin: ‘We’re toast.’ This is not happening for us and I was right.”

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/draft2011/news/story?id=6560322

  7. “Has to convince people he loves the game”……Please, not another Andris Biedrins.

    http://www.nba.com/2011/news/features/david_aldridge/05/16/mock-draft/index.html

  8. I almost never look at over/under lines, but I’m intrigued by the over 200.5 in game 2 of the Mavs-Thunder series, for several reasons:

    1) Neither team can guard each other.
    2) Altho we can expect the Thunder to make adjustments and double Nowitzki more, that doesn’t really work against the Mavs quality scorers does it? As the Lakers found out.
    3) The Thunder will really be looking to push the ball. They can’t win in the half-court.

    Also, if you like the Thunder in this series this is the game to bet, getting 5.5 points. I even kind of like this bet, altho I like the Mavs in the series.

  9. Warriors hire Jerry West in advisory role. Mike Brown is rumored the front runner for head coach. If true I’m hoping West leads them elsewhere. Not a Mike Brown fan.

    http://www.csnbayarea.com/05/19/11/Warriors-to-hire-Jerry-West-in-advisory-/l_gswarriors.html?blockID=525994&feedID=2539

  10. Anything that puts a roadblock between Joe Lacob and the Warriors personnel decisions must be applauded.

  11. Haven’t had a chance to watch the game yet, but interesting note from the boxscore:

    The “allstar” point guard: -12
    Eric Maynor: +18

  12. Felt, so that’s how you praise Lacob for a good decision? Man, the way you write about him makes it seem like he recently stole your girlfriend.

    There’s no way Lacob could have kept Nelson.

  13. Brytex, I’ve written about Lacob as if every personnel decision he’s made in his short career has been a poor one. And you know what? They have all been poor. Every single decision. So forgive me if I reserve my praise for a personnel decision that actually helps the Warriors on the court.

    All of Lacob’s lauded front office moves this off-season have been about giving himself “legitimacy” as the Warriors front-man. But no matter how you cut it, the fact of the matter remains that even with the addition of Jerry West as consultant, the Warriors have transitioned from one of the greatest GMs in history (Don Nelson) to something far more convoluted and far less good. To date, Joe Lacob has proven himself nothing more than a public relations genius and a basketball disaster.

    And if, as rumored, Lacob is on the brink of hiring Mike Brown as head coach, the disaster is about to become catastrophic. Can Jerry West prevent that?

    If he can, I will applaud.

  14. geraldmcgrew

    Mavs beaten by smallball. Again. Maybe Carlisle can adjust better than A.J.?

    In a Lakers post-mortem interview Jerry West said the Lakers may need to consider a different offensive system, which may be about to happen. Here’s hoping Warrior West CAN prevent the Brown (or Shaw) catastrophe. I doubt it; JL seems set on his approach. But I love being wrong about such things.

  15. Here’s hoping the best from West, but if Lacob has already made up his mind on head coach, his most important decision, and apparently he has closed his search, it doesn’t look like West will have any input–unless West brings Shaw?

    For the first time in years, Nelson, had he returned, would have had a stable and promising starting lineup (almost), whose potential could have been developed, and he could have offered a blueprint for the years to come, what pieces to add, how to use them.

    A whole year was wasted as the team’s growth was put on hold.

  16. Here’s the question: is West a PR move or does Lacob seriously intend to listen?

  17. While you guys are busy jumping on Joe Lacob, you’re doing a disservice to Jerry West, one of the classiest men ever in professional sports. West is not a guy who’d come up here just to be window dressing. I quote from part of his statement:

    “It had to be the right situation with the right group of people and this opportunity certainly meets those criteria. I’ve been extremely impressed with Joe Lacob, Peter Guber and the members of the Basketball Operations staff during our conversations, and I’m looking forward to working with them….”

    West’s word carries a lot of weight IMO. In addition, West is a great talent evaluator (just ask Kawakami, who drools all over himself in his latest upchuck so he can tell us how tight he and Jerry are.) Forget Kawakami, but trust West and value his input. He knows the NBA as well as anyone, and I’m very encouraged by this move.

  18. good fellas, the chairman himself has yet to interview anyone for the coaching vacancy and has delegated the equivalent of an entrance exam to riley and myers. frank and person might still have to reach that stage . it’s almost as if lacob would welcome the other teams to go ahead with their hires and help out by eliminating some of the candidates, but for all we know, someone like shaw wants to return to oaktown and is willing to wait it out, especially now that west is becoming a minority owner.

  19. Not betting this one myself, but like the Thunder -4 in Game 4. The Mavs got what they came for, and will likely take this game off. And just in case, the league will insist. Stern will get his 7 game series.

    The difference between how games 3 and game 1 were officiated was absolutely staggering. Dirk went to the line 24 times in game 1. He went to the line 3 times in game 3, with Collison riding him like a Bedouin rides a camel. THREE TIMES. The Thunder are now mugging Nowitzki with all of the force and abandon that they used against Randolph and Gasol. And getting away with it. This is not an accident, nor simply the result of better defensive play. It is the result of NBA officiating. If you refuse to believe this, then go back and re-watch games 1 and 3.

    Here’s Rick Carlisle on the subject:

    Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle tried to be diplomatic about the fact that Dirk Nowitzki shot only three free-throws in Game 3.

    “Well, they’re making a great effort on him,” Carlisle said of the Thunder. “Now, I don’t know in terms of legal limits, I believe the line may be crossed at times. And if so, the league will see that.”

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-mavericks/headlines/20110522-foul-play-thunder_s-defense-on-dirk-nowitzki-might-have-crossed-legal-limits_.ece

    Carlisle could use a lesson or two from Phil Jackson about how to talk to David Stern in the press. I’d wager these aren’t the words being used behind closed doors.

  20. Felty: You have expressed your belief that we should keep Ellis and obtain a third big defensive guard. Such still present problems for the Warriors as Curry and Ellis will still be on the court together at times, and I do not forsee Curry and Ellis playing well together.

    If we keep Ellis, sign a free agent and our first round draft pick ,our bench will continue to be weak.

    What do you think of the Warriors trading Ellis for Conley, Allen, Haddadi, and either Young or Arthur, thus strengthening both our bench and our team?

  21. Here’s one vote for Jeremy Lin eventually becoming a productive NBA player. While his contributions were minimal this past season I’m not one of those who believe the Warriors made a mistake in signing him to a contract. Lin has two things that give him a great chance to succeed in the future, smarts and quickness. He’s obviously a very intelligent kid who has and will continue to learn what he needs to work on in order to successfully compete at the highest level. It’s that mental toughness and determination, coupled with the NBA-quickness that he already possesses, that will carry him ultimately to where he wants to go. Jeremy Lin IS NBA caliber.

    http://www.csnbayarea.com/pages/warriorsvideo?PID=P_BtYyl5mRHZogMfZj_k9Q3URqPy0xlV

  22. Mavs “nemesis” Danny Crawford working Game 4. The Mavs are 3-16 in playoff games worked by Crawford. Hmmm….

    http://sportsblogs.star-telegram.com/mavs/2011/05/mavs-nemesis-official-danny-crawford-to-work-game-4-at-okc-tonight.html

  23. The rumor is Dallas left OKC tonight wearing ski masks. Talk about stealing, the Mavs were outrebounded 55-33 and trailed by 15 with less than 5 minutes remaining. Then Nowitzki does what superstars do, putting his team on his back and almost single handedly carrying them to victory.

    Felt, you were right about dubious officiating as that “crook” Tony Brothers called a “bad” foul on OKC with only 6.4 seconds left in regulation resulting in the game tying free throws. That WAS the way it was supposed to happen, right? OOPS! LOL

    Dirk Nowitzki is the kind of “star” I can easily embrace as a non-fan of the Mavericks. Along with being a great player he’s refreshingly humble and seemingly a really great guy. I hope he finally gets to celebrate winning a championship.

  24. Here’s another perspective Steve, from ex-NBA baller Ricky Pierce (commenting on pal Eddie Johnson’s excellent blog):

    “Nick Collison has done the best job of anyone who has had to guard Nowitzki, and even though I feel Collison is getting away with some blatant hackery and should probably foul out in 10 minutes, I have to give him credit for forcing Nowitzki into taking some extremely difficult shots.”

    http://blogs.hoopshype.com/blogs/johnson/2011/05/24/mavs-are-outsmarting-thunder/#ixzz1NHU2umHK

  25. Frank, I don’t believe in trading stars for role players and bench players, no matter how thin your bench. And particularly in the case of one-way defensive wings, which is basically what Tony Allen is, the best way to pick them up is the way Nellie did it: from the D-leagues and in free-agency.

    I also don’t agree with moving Stephen Curry off the ball. As an off-guard, he’s a slow, undersized three point specialist. As a point guard he’s a potential all-star.

  26. Yes, Steve, the Warriors dodged a bullet with Brown going elsewhere. Watching his Cavaliers play was to be bored out of your skull, even with the best player in the NBA. Just the idea that he was even being considered made me contemplate being a Clippers fan (because of Blake Griffin)! I hope Lacob figures out his fan base before he commits franchise suicide with a hire like Brown.

  27. Here’s more on the Brown/Lakers story. I would think that if this goes through Brian Shaw would definitely want the Warriors job if offered. And with West now part of the organization I’m guessing he’ll highly endorse Shaw.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=AkO_uork7IcKLGYtAL5cKL45nYcB?slug=aw-wojnarowski_lakers_coach_mike_brown052411

  28. Delighted that Brown went to the Lakers. The perfect team for him, a team that doesn’t know how to fastbreak, and ignores the offensive system.

    As for Shaw, West won’t recommend him for the Warriors unless he intends to trade BOTH Monta and Curry. The triangle is not just a ridiculous system for the NBA, but the absolutely wrong system to run for talented scoring point guards, of which the Warriors have two. Will West want to recommend someone who has no head coaching experience, and no experience of any system other than the triangle?

    No chance.

  29. These playoffs have given the lie to the necessity of “fixed rotations.”

    http://offthedribble.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/25/miamis-fluid-rotation-pays-off/

  30. Felty: I see no evidence that other teams consider Ellis a star playing either SG or PG, and for that reason won’t offer a star in return. Hope I’m wrong.

    I do see Ellis possibly being traded for a high draft pick and other players. Even if we add a big guard, the Warriors still have problems with Ellis and Curry having to play many minutes together. I don’t think the Warriors consider the Curry-Ellis backcourt a long term solution.

    If we can’t trade Ellis for a star or high draft pick, then we’re
    left with a draft pick and adding a free agent. Such still leaves us with a weak bench.

    The real question is whether the team would be better off if we traded Ellis for really good bench players. I think the answer is yes. I suspect that West would agree.

    Maybe, we should trade for Conley, Young, and Arthur or to some other teams that would fill out our bench.

  31. The Warrior backcourt of Ellis and Curry, not fully exploited last year, has phenomenal offensive potential. And it represents what many (most?) playoff teams this year lack–except Dallas. Look at what Kidd/Terry/Barera (I’ve gained respect–and why isn’t Beaubois playing?) have done for Dallas. If the Warriors want to make a splash next year and look to the future, they’ll need to keep the talent they have and add to it.

  32. Felt, West made the following comments about some other coaches, and coaching, in the NBA:

    “If you look at the coaches who really produce coaches in this league, Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley and also Larry Brown. They’ve produced a lot of coaches in this league.

    The kid, Monty Williams down in New Orleans, I thought he did an unbelievable job. I thought he should’ve been coach of the year. And Tom did an incredible job in Chicago—but they had talent there.

    I thought he did a great job. And when they hired (Williams), I’m sure no one knew who they hired. And probably someone you can grow with as an organization.

    Again, I look at Pat… I watch the Spoelstra kid on the sidelines, man, he looks so poised and all the criticism he took early in the year, how he’s handled it and to watch how his team has played, I think he’s done an absolutely amazing job.”

    That doesn’t sound like someone who would have any problems with hiring a new head coach who was sans head coaching experience. And he’s already spoken highly of Shaw.

    If you’re Shaw, interviewing for an NBA head coaching position, why would you pigeonhole yourself into any one particular coaching system? Afterall, especially in this particular case, how many teams in the NBA run the Triangle offense? And you think Shaw would tell prospective employers that it’s the Triangle or forget it?

    If I’m the Warriors or any other organization looking for bright, innovative young head coaching talent, I’m looking more at the “bright” and “innovative” parts as opposed to whatever system that person has been associated with in the past.

  33. Any word why the Lakers passed on Shaw? An article said Kobe wasn’t consulted. I suspect we’re going to get a nice show next year from Brown and Kobe.

  34. Curry had surgery on his right ankle–reported at Yahoo. No details, though. Said he’d be ready for training.

  35. rgg, jim buss is the new marshal in dodge, and by many reports he took the lead both in the selection of the new coach, and a general house sweeping of front office personnel associated with the jackson era. prominent among those getting a pink slip was the ass’t g.m. ronnie lester, part of the front office for more than a decade. shaw might not have a place on brown’s staff, but he’ll probably have several options elsewhere if he’s not retained.
    and thanks for the kind words on the other thread.

  36. Phil Jackson pal Charlie Rosen explains just how close the Warriors came to a Lacob-induced disaster:

    http://blogs.hoopshype.com/blogs/rosen/2011/05/26/lakers-turnover/

  37. “a general house sweeping of front office personnel associated with the jackson era”

    Boy, that sounds familiar. At the very least, Jackson could manage all those superstar egos. We should get some good theatre next year.

  38. Nellie already has been out of Golden State since last September, but the team’s interest in Brown shows that his way of doing things has been thrown into the trash bin. With new owners in charge and the great Jerry West on board to help change the culture, the Warriors wanted Brown and were said to be ready to offer him their head coaching position. At least that’s how the Lakers heard it, and that’s why they pounced on Brown the way the Mavs pounced on Phil Jackson’s team in the second round. While the Lakers were still considering Rick Adelman, the first choice of owner Jerry Buss, and Mike Dunleavy, they caught wind of the Warriors’ plans. That’s when the new guy in charge, VP Jim Buss, decided that they needed to grab Brown before Golden State did.

    http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/miami-heat-nba-contenders-proving-defensive-adage-true-052711

  39. Interesting read on Mike Brown accepting the Lakers job vs. possibility of the W’s gig.

    http://thepaintedarea.blogspot.com/2011/05/thoughts-on-mike-brown-and-lakers.html