Nightly notable plays for January 4, 2014... plus some comments.
Knowing Brett and Ryan will likely cover the Chicago vs. Miami series I turn my attention to the upcoming Dallas vs. Oklahoma City Western Conference Finals match-up. An unlikely meeting in some respects but now that they’re both here, they certainly deserve it. Oklahoma City has an 8-4 post-season record while Dallas are 8-2 and have enjoyed a nice long rest after sweeping/destroying the Lakers in the Conference Semis. With thanks to NBA.com’s Statscube, let’s take a look at the two teams and see if we can’t unlock some hidden gems.
First thing’s first as the Dallas Mavericks won two of the three meetings this season against Oklahoma City. What’s interesting is that both wins were on Oklahoma’s home floor. It definitely puts the third meeting into perspective as a clean sweep with two road wins would have afforded the Mavericks a significant psychological advantage. Not to be though as neither team was able to protect their home court during the regular season. (Who says it’s meaningless??)
Predictably the Dallas Mavericks excelled from the arc connecting on 44% of their attempts. Strangely enough the Thunder only attempted four shots from downtown in the entire three games played, connecting on one. I sense there will be more emphasis on the outside shot with OKC likely to eclipse that number in the first quarter of Game One. In fact, Russell Westbrook alone will probably eclipse that number in the first quarter. As for the inside game, the Thunder really struggled. It’s only right to mention that the three contests were played between November 24th and December 6th 2010 though so the Kendrick Perkins Experience was yet to materialize and that is a big factor.
When it comes to rebounding Dallas increased their productivity against OKC by close to 12% however I point again to the time-frame of the games. Needless to say that the Ibaka/Perkins vs. Chandler/Haywood match-up will be key.
One area of concern for Oklahoma was their inability to convert from inside the lane. Barring the restricted area, (in other words dunks and lay-ups) the Thunder shot a horrible 27%. Some would argue that their 63-97 from the restricted area for 65% makes up for that but I don’t think this Mavericks team will be giving away anything easy. This is where the Thunder will rely heavily on that three-point stroke to open up the floor. Much like the struggles of the Orlando Magic, I sense OKC will be in a world of pain if guys like James Harden go missing in this series.
This leaves me predicting a high scoring affair with both teams, (if on their game) able to score from all over the floor. The only asterisk on this prediction is the Thunder’s ability to shoot well from outside.
Finally a look at the coaches and it seems Michael J Fox (Scott Brooks) vs. Jim Carrey (Rick Carlisle) is really happening. I like both of these guys and it will be tough to see one of them fall short. My gut tells me that Carlisle has the upper hand here and also has the deeper team. Looks like Marty McFly may need to wait for a sequel to claim a berth in the NBA Finals.
If you’ve been following our podcasts you’ll know that my predictions have been just awful. So in the spirit of making tax-free money, (no Sports Almanac I can assure you!) put the house on Oklahoma City as I think the Mavericks will take this series in six games.