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Oklahoma City Thunder: Who will be first-round foe?

by Berry Tramel Published: April 18, 2012

The NBA regular season is a week away from completion, so while we don’t know in which slot the Thunder will finish, we can narrow it down. The Thunder will be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the West, which means a first-round matchup against one of five teams:Denver,Dallas,Phoenix,HoustonorUtah.

For the record, most pundits predict the following order of finish for those five teams:Dallas,Denver,Utah, then eitherPhoenixorHouston. That would pit the second-seeded Thunder againstDenver, or the top-seeded Thunder againstUtah.

But which team would the Thunder most like to face? Here is OKC’s results the last two years against those five teams.

Dallas: Thunder went 2-1 vs.Dallasthis season, though the Mavs had two home games. Last season, when the Mavs won the NBA title with a roster now void of Thunder killers Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea,Dallaswent 2-1 vs. the Thunder, with two games in OKC. Then the Mavs went 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals.

Denver: Thunder is 2-0 vs. the Nuggets this season, including that fabulous overtime game in February, plus the teams meet Wednesday night in OKC. Last season, the Thunder went 3-1 vs.Denverbefore the Thunder won a playoff series 4-1. The Nuggets retooled their team in February 2011, so the playoff Nuggets more closely resemble this season’s Nuggets.

Utah: Thunder is 2-1 vs. the Jazz, with two games inSalt Lake City. Thunder went 3-1 vs.Utahlast season. The Jazz was remade after the February 2011 trade of point guard Deron Williams.

Houston: Thunder is 2-2 vs. the Rockets, with two one-point losses toHouston. Last season, the Thunder went 3-1 against the Rockets, with a one-point loss. So the Thunder is 5-3 the last two seasons vs. the Rockets, with all three losses by one point.

Phoenix: Thunder is 2-0 vs. the Suns this season, going into the Wednesday night game inPhoenix. OKC was 3-1 vs. the Suns last season.

So who shouldOklahoma Citywant to face? Here’s how I would rank them:

1.Denver: The Nuggets play the Thunder fairly tough, but OKC has found a way to dominate George Karl’s team two years running.

2.Phoenix: The Suns are fun and gritty – a rare combination – but they’ve got no chance of stopping the Thunder.

3.Utah: The Jazz beat the Thunder in their most recent meeting, but OKC won five straight before that.

4.Houston: For cosmic reasons, the Rockets and the Thunder usually play close games. The Thunder wins the majority, but still, that’s playing with fire.

5.Dallas: The Mavericks are a shell of their championship team, but Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry still can swish clutch shots. Best to let the Lakers or Spurs worry about the Mavs’ pedigree.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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