Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dallas Mavericks [Print without images]

Friday, May 13, 2011
Better matchup: Memphis or OKC?

By Jeff Caplan

DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks could know their Western Conference finals foe as soon as tonight. The Oklahoma City Thunder will attempt to make the Memphis Grizzlies sing the blues once and for all in Game 6 in Memphis.

If OKC wins, it will open the West finals in Dallas on Sunday afternoon. If Memphis wins, Game 7 will be Sunday at OKC with the winner moving on to Dallas for Game 1 on Tuesday night.

"That series is not over," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle informed. "It’s far from over. There’s still a lot to be determined."

Opinions on which young, up-and-coming team the Mavs should want to play seem to be evenly split -- unless you're J.J. Barea and, pressed for an answer on ESPN's First Take, you say you'd rather see, you guess, Memphis. Who knows, maybe Barea was employing reverse psychology.

"Both teams can get up and down and they harass you on the defensive end," Jason Kidd said. "They play a quicker game than the Lakers, so as much as you talk about halfcourt [dominating playoff basketball], you have to take care of the ball because those guys can get out and run."

Well, that didn't clear up much. OKC and Memphis employ different styles. The Grizz play inside-out with Mavs killer, forward Zach Randolph and always improving center Marc Gasol. OKC is brilliantly athletic with 6-foot-9 freak-of-nature Kevin Durant and explosive point guard Russell Westbrook.

Memphis plays better overall team defense and is stingy on the perimeter with Tony Allen, but OKC has preeminent shot blocker Serge Ibaka, plus the late addition of scowling center Kendrick Perkins.

Made up your mind?

"Oklahoma City’s team has changed a lot since we played them and we only played them three times," Carlisle said. "I guess the bottom line is the things that happen during the season aren’t that significant for a lot of reasons. Memphis got better and better as the season went on. We played them late, they beat us here and at that point they were really starting to gel and play well. We played Oklahoma City earlier in the year, they had not made the Perkins trade, their team was completely different. So I think all that we can throw out the window."

Before we chuck it all, why not a look back at the two regular-season series?

Dallas 2, Oklahoma City 1

Nov. 24 at OKC - Mavs 111, Thunder 103: Dirk Nowitzki scored 34 points on 9-of-15 shooting and the Mavs ended OKC's five-game win streak with a dominant, 36-22, fourth quarter. Kevin Durant had 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting.

Dec. 27 at OKC - Mavs 103, Thunder 93: Riled OKC fans won't forget this one. Nowitzki was off to another huge game with 13 points in 11:32 before he fell to the floor early in the second quarter after shooting a fallaway. A sprained right knee would keep him out of the game -- as well as the next nine -- but a spirited defensive effort to hold OKC to 12 fourth-quarter points got Dallas the win. Caron Butler -- remember him? -- scored a team-high 21 points and slammed the ball down at the buzzer on an emphatic win.

Jan. 6 at Dallas - Thunder 99, Mavs 95: With Nowitzki out of action with that sprained knee and Butler's season-ending knee injury not even a week old, Dallas managed to play a competitive game before Durant (28 points) and the Thunder pulled away in the fourth quarter. Shawn Marion scored 21 of his 25 points in the first half.

Memphis 3, Dallas 1

Oct. 29 at Dallas - Grizzlies 91, Mavs 90: Dallas led by eight after its first basket to start the fourth quarter and then scored just 13 more points in the fourth quarter. Gasol made the game-winning free throw with 6.7 seconds left. Randolph did not play.

Nov. 10 at Memphis - Mavs 106, Grizzlies 91: Six Mavs scored in double figures led by Jason Terry with 25 while Nowitzki had just 12. The Mavs led throughout and blew it open with a 31-19 third quarter. Randolph had 23 points and nine rebounds.

Jan. 15 at Memphis - Grizzlies 89, Mavs 70: Nowitzki's return from a sprained right knee was short-lived. He was ejected early in the third quarter after getting double technicals. He was just 2-of-7 from the field. It was a miserable game from start to finish, evidenced by Ian Mahinmi leading Dallas in scoring with 17 points. Randolph had 23 points and 20 rebounds. Tyson Chandler was ill and did not play.

March 6 at Dallas - Grizzlies 104, Mavs 103: Dallas blew a 17-point halftime lead as Memphis won the third quarter, 41-23. It appeared that Nowitzki had saved the day when he dropped a fallaway from the free throw line with 3.1 seconds to go to put Dallas up by one. But, Randolph sank a beautiful 17-foot rainbow from the corner for the win. It was just the Mavs' second loss in 20 games and the first time Dallas lost a season series to the Grizz.

Settle anything?

Now chuck it out the window.