Conference finals: Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Well, the game has started, but I haven’t started playing the recording; it’s not like people are reading this anyway. I haven’t had much time to write about or analyze this series, but in thinking about it I always come to the conclusion that it’s a close series that will be determined by luck, meaning a key injury or a shot barely missing at the buzzer. The match-ups are interesting — Ibaka, Collison and Durant will try to guard Nowitzki. I think Ibaka could be an okay defender against Dirk, but he doesn’t have the seasoning to keep up with all his moves. Dallas can use Marion and Stevenson on Durant, but this is the Dallas Marion, not the Phoenix Suns version. Additionally, they don’t have anyone to guard Westbrook, which may sometimes work on Dallas’ favor because Westbrook could play keep away from Durant and fire up errant shots. The battle of the benches may sway Oklahoma City’s direction because Barea could end up on Westbrook or Stojakovic on Durant.

In looking through some adjusted +/- stats, Dallas has the edge with its current lineup, which isn’t surprising given how they destroyed LA (one technique gave a +1 advantage to Dallas.) You can’t just blindly use +/- because it’s largely not situational, but I don’t see any match-up dynamics that put one team clearly ahead of the other. In the end, home court advantage will decide the series, although it’s possible Oklahoma City could win. Watch for Ibaka getting destroyed by Dirk, while Collison provides some surprisingly good defense; the Kidd and Terry backcourt will have trouble with Westbrook; the Mavs’ zone will keep Durant out of two or three games; and rampant discussion on how Oklahoma City’s age is a detriment in close games, where some will come down to the last couple shots.

Dallas over Oklahoma City in game 7. +5 to Dallas.

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