Oklahoma City Thunder: Nuggets or Mavericks preferred?
It looks like a Thunder-Dallas first-round playoff series. If Denver wins at Minnesota on Thursday night, the Nuggets play the Lakers in the first round, sending the Mavs to Oklahoma City. So is that good news for the Thunder? Probably not. Denver is probably an easier first-round foe than Dallas will be. The experienced Mavs seem to be a thorn in the flesh of the Thunder. But let’s go individually. Which foe would the Thunder players like to see.
KEVIN DURANT: Denver. Durant has played well against the Mavs this season — 26.7 points a game, 48 percent shooting — but Durant lights up the Nuggets. He was great in the playoffs last year against Denver, and in three games this season KD averaged 35.7 points and shot 59 percent. He was above 50 percent shooting in all three games against the Nuggets. Neither team presents a stiff defensive challenge for Durant, unless the Thunder goes small, in which case Durant might have to cover Dirk Nowitzki from time to time.
RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Dallas. The Mavericks play much better defense, which will frustrate Westbrook. In three games against Dallas this season, Westbrook had 15 turnovers and just 11 assists. Against the Nuggets, Westbrook had 11 turnovers but 23 assists. And Westbrook averaged 31 points a game against Denver while shooting 50 percent from the field. Against Dallas, Westbrook averaged 22.3 points a game while shooting 42 percent. But Denver point guard Ty Lawson is hard to cover. Westbrook has done an excellent job of it; Lawson has averaged 17 points against OKC this year. But Lawson can wear you out over a seven-game series. Westbrook is likely to have Jason Kidd or Vince Carter on him some. Sounds like a field day for Westbrook.
JAMES HARDEN: Denver. Seems to be a wash offensively. In three games against the Mavs, Harden averaged 13.7 points and shot 40 percent, both below average. In two games against Denver, Harden averaged about the same — 14.0 points and 35 percent shooting. The difference? Against Dallas, Harden will be matched up against Jason Terry a bunch. Much easier to guard the Nugget backcourt.
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