OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Thunder crowd is known for going bonkers, and the noise will come with the first breakaway jam.
"The thing that I know for sure is that this is going to be 150 times louder than it was in Atlanta the other night," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said, referring to Thursday's finale at a half-full Phillips Arena. "And that's fine, that's good. We like coming here because this is a great atmosphere. This is a great playoff atmosphere."
For the Dallas Mavericks the key is not to let one jam turn into three at a time, which means keeping a handle on the basketball not and allowing the Thunder fans to blow the roof off the joint in tonight's Game 1.
The Mavs were 2-0 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in last season's Western Conference finals but 0-2 this season, losing on a buzzer-beater, as well as a second close game that was tied in the final minute.
Dirk Nowitzki likened the Oklahoma City crowd to the frenzied nature more often the case at a college game.
"Teams are going to make runs on you and the building is going to crazy and you have to withstand that and stop the bleeding," Nowitzki said. "I think what really helped us last year was on the defensive end. I think when the game was on the line we were one of the best defensive teams rotating for each other; Tyson [Chandler] was plugging all the holes, J-Kidd and Trix [Shawn Marion] always doing a great job on the opposing best players, and that really set us up to make runs at the end of games, get stops and we were able to speed the game up some and play off the flow in transition."
Ultimately, if you’re good defensively you can be in games and big road games and give yourself a chance to win."
When: 8:30 p.m.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena
TV: ESPN/TXA 21
Radio: ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Turnovers. The Mavs are not a high turnover team, but they've had their difficulties at times during the season. There might not be a faster team in transition than the Thunder, and they'll quickly cash turnovers into fastbreak points.
Key matchup: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Serge Ibaka/Nick Collison/Kendrick Perkins
The Thunder have no good answer for the Mavs' 7-footer, who has produced some brilliant games against OKC, including last season's playoff series opener when he went for 48 points on just 15 shot attempts. Of the three, the 6-foot-10 Collison tends to play Nowitzki the toughest, using his body to stay close to the Mavs' leading scorer and trying to force him out of his comfort zone. The scowling, 270-pound Perkins can be used to try to agitate Nowitzki into bad shots. Using Perkins on Nowitzki also helps to free Ibaka to do what he does best, block shots.
Up next: Game 2 -- Mavs at Oklahoma City Thunder, 8:30 p.m. Monday