Mavericks (9-4, 5-2 road) vs. Thunder (7-6, 5-3 home), 6PM CST at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, OK
Offensive Rating*: Thunder 109.5 (2nd), Mavericks 103.8 (14th)
Defensive Rating*: Thunder 104.9 (18th), Mavericks 101.6 (11th)
Simple Rating System**: Thunder 3.81 (9th), Mavericks 0.60 (16th)
* an estimate of points scored or allowed per 100 possessions
** team rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule. Zero is league average.
Kevin Durant sits again with a hamstring injury, which does not bode well for the Thunder against a surprising Mavericks squad. The Thunder is 2-3 without their injured superstar and the two teams they have beaten are a combined 2-25 on the season. Not great, Bob.
Over that 5 game stretch, the Thunder is being slightly outscored, 100.2 to 100.6. They are also shooting under 42% as a team, which is survivable. But the biggest disparity has come at the three point line. The Thunder are hoisting 24 three-pointers and connecting on only 28.3% of them. Opponents are shooting over 42% from deep on 21.8 attempts per game. Really not great, Bob.
Expectations for the Mavericks were low coming into the season but they have responded like Holly Holm. They’ve also excelled despite getting limited production from forward Chandler Parsons (on a minutes restriction due to offseason knee surgery) and guard Wesley Matthews (returning from a torn Achilles tendon). Still, the Mavericks have played the league’s fourth softest schedule so far, so perhaps this is Fool’s Gold.
Non-Obvious Player to Watch, Dallas: reserve forward Dwight Powell wasn’t a featured piece of last season’s disastrous Rajon Rondo trade, but he’s giving the Mavericks quality production. The 6-11 Stanford grad, and former teammate of Thunder rookie Josh Huestis, is averaging a very active 10.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while shooting 54.2% from the field.
Non-Obvious Player to Watch, OKC: It’s Serge Ibaka against Dirk Nowitzki yet again, and Ibaka will have his work cut out for him. The German legend is hitting 53% of his threes this season and is his usual effective self. In five games without Durant, Ibaka is shooting a lowly 38.2% and collecting only 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The Thunder desperately needs him to snap back.
Random Fun Thing: Want another idea of how little NBA preseason matters in the grand scheme of things? Dallas’ leading scorer in the preseason was guard John Jenkins at 19.7 per game on 48% shooting. In the regular season he’s been inactive (five times) more than he’s appeared in a game (four times).
Pregame coverage: David Garrett, John Rohde, and Desmond Mason have you covered starting at 5PM live from Flint Restaurant at the Colcord Hotel, one block north of the arena.
Postgame coverage: Jerry Ramsey and I hit the airwaves immediately following the game, also live from Flint Restaurant. Skip traffic, get some food a drink, stop by and tell us how we’re doing it all wrong. Tune in on 107.7 in Oklahoma City, 107.9 in Tulsa, or 1560AM.