The Oklahoma City Thunder go for a third straight win when they host the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. This is the first meeting of the season between the two clubs, who would both be in the playoffs if they started today.
Dallas has impressed this year with its second-year star, Luka Doncic, even knocked off the league-leading Bucks while he was out. Their decision to trade for Kristaps Porzingis last year (and instantly extend him) is paying dividends, as the two of them are working well together.
Rick Carlisle is under scrutiny for never posting the 7-3 big man up, but it really is just whatever works. For a team that has not won a playoff series since knocking off LeBron James’ Heat in the 2011 Finals, this could be the year the Mavericks put that drought to bed.
Oklahoma City, on the other hand, has proven itself as a must-watch team. No Paul George, Russell Westbrook or Jerami Grant anymore, but Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have come in and taken on leadership roles, playing extremely well.
Steven Adams has continued to do his thing in the middle, while Dennis Schroder and Danilo Gallinari have continued to be bucket getters. The Thunder have been playing their best ball of the year lately, and even knocked off Toronto on the road in their last contest.
The Mavericks are set as 1.5-point favorites Tuesday night, while the over/under is set at 219.5 points.
Looking To End Year On A High Note
The Mavericks rank near the top in three-point shooting and rebounding, two things that have been huge keys to this year’s success. Built kind of like Dwight Howard’s old Orlando teams, the Mavericks have their star in Doncic and shooters around him at every position to kick the ball to.
And all of the players they use tend to play hard on the defensive end. All of their bigs are capable of protecting the rim on defense and popping out to bury the deep ball on the other end.
Doncic continues to play great ball and ascend in just his second NBA season. The 20-year-old is a prime MVP candidate, getting respect from the game’s best.
Doncic got some love from Kobe Bryant (in Slovenian no less) during the team’s game against the Lakers on Sunday. It’s rare to get such respect from an all-time great this soon.
Hoping To Keep Rolling
The bandwagon is growing again in Oklahoma City, with things looking up. This was supposed to be the Thunder’s down year, with non-fans writing them off as a team destined to finish near the bottom of the West. But here they are, Paul stepping up as a leader on both ends of the floor and off the court as well.
All three of their point guards have been effective, and thanks to their versatility, are able to share the floor for long stretches of time. Billy Donovan has proven himself as a solid NBA head coach, and though they’d lose in the opening round of the playoffs most likely, getting there would be making a statement.
The Thunder have draft picks galore for the next several drafts, so they may as well chase the wins if they see it fit.
Thunder End 2019 With A Bang
A late three from Gilgeous-Alexander will lead the Thunder into 2020 with a win and an 18-15 mark. Take Oklahoma City in this one.
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