Dallas Mavericks at Oklahoma City (-2.5, 216.5 o/u)
In terms of getting primed for the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks (45-29, 20-17 away) aren’t following the playbook. The team is just 1-4 in its last five and has dropped two straight to start its current three-game road trip. Their recent mediocre play has seen the team drop to seventh in the Western Conference, just three games up on the eighth-place Oklahoma City Thunder (42-32, 27-9 home) whom they’ll visit tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena (8:00 p.m. Eastern).
The Mavs let a 61-55 halftime lead slip away to the Pacers on Monday, leaving Indiana on the wrong side of a 104-99 loss. The Mavs defense was characteristically soft, allowing the Pacers to shoot 50-percent from the field. The team also felt the absence of leading scorer Monta Ellis (19.1 PPG), who missed his first game as a Maverick with a calf injury.
“I thought we were fine there for a while, but usually [Ellis] is our closer,” Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki said after the game. “He’s got the ball in his hands at the end a lot, and we definitely missed that. It’s his attacking and his mid-range game off the pick-and-rolls, and we definitely would have loved to have him down the stretch.”
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle still liked much of what he saw in the loss, though, including the play of Chandler Parsons (27 points and ten boards) and Rajon Rondo (17 points, ten assists, and seven boards).
“I liked the way we played in a lot of ways,” said Carlisle. “It’s pretty much what I expected with the roster that we have without [Ellis], but we’re going to have to go by feel and we’re going to have to adjust on the fly some. That’s just the way it’s going to be.”
The team is hopeful that Ellis can return to the lineup tonight, along with guard J.J. Barea (ankle).
As for the Thunder, this season the team is being led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, who has his squad 2.5 games ahead of New Orleans for the last playoff spot in the West. The Thunder showed some moxie on Sunday with a 109-97 come-from-behind win over Phoenix.
Westbrook had 33 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, while bench players D.J. Augustin and Anthony Morrow combed to score 30 points.
The Thunder recently shut down reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant for the season due to a foot injury, and are also without forward Serge Ibaka (knee). Even though Westbrook has arguably developed into the best player in the league absent KD, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks knows his squad will need to play a team game if it’s going to go anywhere in the playoffs.
“We have to find ways to win together,” said Brooks. “We’ve been doing that for a long time. Tonight[‘s game against New Orleans] was a classic example of what we have to do.”
Considering Dallas is 32-40-2 ATS (including 17-20 ATS away), while the Thunder are 22-14 ATS at home, the play tonight is OKC laying the points (-2.5).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison from Baltimore, USA (00033631) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)