It’s dangerous to draw conclusions based on the Mavericks’ 2-1 record against the Thunder during the regular season.
The West final foes haven’t played since Jan. 6. The Thunder made a roster-renovating trade since then, shipping center Nenad Krstic and power forward Jeff Green to Boston to get big man Kendrick Perkins. They also added a proven banger in backup big man Nazr Mohammed and promoted high-flying power forward Serge Ibaka to a starting role.
The Mavs won’t have Caron Butler, who played a major role in their two wins in Oklahoma City, for this series. But the Thunder hasn’t seen sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic this season.
As much as the teams have changed since the budding Red River rivals last met, there could be some value in studying the individual matchups. Using NBA.com Stats Cube, here’s a look at how the Mavs fared when on the floor at the same time as their Thunder counterparts this season. (All averages, including plus-minus, are per 36 minutes.)
Westbrook: 14.9 points on 32 percent shooting, 9.1 assists, 4.0 rebounds
Kidd (+9.1): 6.5 points on 25 percent shooting (4-of-17 3-pointers), 9.5 assists, 6.9 rebounds.
Analysis: This one will probably surprise people who didn’t watch the Mavs-Thunder games or have a foggy recollection of them. Westbrook’s quickness is a major weapon, but he still wasn’t effective against a man 16 years older than him. The Mavs’ big men deserve a large share of the credit for containing the All-Star. The majority of Westbrook’s shots against Kidd came in the paint, but he was only 10-of-26 on those attempts, including 8-of-18 at the rim.
Sefolosha: 5.1 points on 60 percent shooting (3-5 in 56 minutes), 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists
Stevenson (+1.3): 13.5 points on 50 percent shooting (6-10 3s), 1.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists.
Analysis: Neither of these defensive-minded role players are expected to put up big numbers, but Stevenson ranked among the NBA’s best 3-point shooters early in the season. He knocked down 6-of-10 3s when on the floor against Sefolosha. It’s a big bonus for the Mavs if Stevenson can shoot anywhere near that well in the West finals.
Marion (+3.6): 23.2 points on 65 percent shooting, 7.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists.
Durant: 23.7 points on 53 percent shooting, 4.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists.
Analysis: The Mavs’ biggest mismatch problem in this series was surprisingly even. However, a lot of Marion’s minutes came at power forward, especially in the win when Dirk Nowitzki sprained his knee during the first half. The Mavs will need to make Durant work on defense, which means they’ll need to get Marion involved as a cutter and slasher in their halfcourt sets.
Nowitzki (+4.9): 40.9 points on 70 percent shooting, 3.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists.
Ibaka: 22.9 points on 67 percent shooting, 9.8 rebounds, no assists.
Analysis: The 21-year-old Ibaka is one of the NBA’s best shot blockers, but the crafty Nowitzki uses that against him with an assortment of pump fakes Ibaka has to respect due to Dirk’s shooting ability. Nowitzki averaged 16.4 free throw attempts per 36 minutes against Ibaka, who will probably spend a lot of the series in foul trouble.
Nowitzki (+15.2): 32.2 points on 56 percent shooting, 5.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists
Collison: 3.8 points on 100 percent shooting, 5.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists
Analysis: Collison, a savvy veteran, played most of Game 7 against the Grizzlies and did a solid job defending Zach Randolph. Based on these numbers, however, Collision doesn’t appear to be the answer defending Dirk.
Chandler (+9.0): 10.3 points on 57 percent shooting, 18.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists.
Perkins: 11.6 points on 80 percent shooting, 14.1 rebounds, no assists.
Analysis: These stats are from Perkins’ days with the Celtics. Neither big man should be judged solely on individual numbers. They have similar mindsets, but Perkins is much bulkier and Chandler much more athletic. Perkins has problems catching and finishing and isn’t a shooting threat, so Chandler won’t hesitate to help off him on defense.
Terry: 16.6 points on 43 percent shooting, 5.5 assists, 1.1 rebounds.
Harden (+4.4): 13.3 points on 38 percent shooting, 5.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists.
Analysis: The battle of the sixth men shooting guards is a tough matchup for Terry. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Harden is a versatile player who will have a huge size advantage. Of course, if Terry hasn’t cooled off during the long layoff since his record-setting Game 4 shooting exhibition, size won’t matter.
Barea: 18.5 points on 50 percent shooting, 7.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists
Maynor (+6.5): 12.0 points on 36 percent shooting, 9.8 assists, 3.3 rebounds
Analysis: There aren’t many backup point guards who I’d take over Barea, but Maynor is one of them. He’s a mid-first round pick who fell in the Thunder’s laps because the Jazz wanted to avoid the luxury tax. Maynor is a pure point guard, while Barea is an explosive scorer who embarrassed the Lakers with his penetration off of pick-and-rolls.
Haywood (+36.0): 9.0 points on 50 percent shooting, 15.0 rebounds, no assists
Mohammed: 12.0 points on 50 percent shooting, no rebounds, 3.0 assists
Analysis: These numbers are from a sample of only 12 minutes, but the Mavs should have a significant edge when the backup big men are on the floor. Mohammed has a championship ring from his time in San Antonio, but he’s no longer a starting-quality center. Haywood is, as he’s proven during the playoffs.