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OKC Thunder vs. Mavericks: Dallas provides perfect setup for OKC

Facing the defending champion Dallas Mavericks should jump-start the Thunder, which has been sleepwalking of late.
by Jenni Carlson Published: April 27, 2012

Thunder fans, I know some of you are worried about your team.

I don't blame you.

The Thunder decided to sleepwalk through the final weeks of the regular season. After drubbing the Bulls on April Fools' Day, the boys in blue didn't beat another playoff-bound team the rest of the month.

Can they shake off the haziness for the playoffs?

That remains to be seen, but they've got one heck of a wake-up call waiting for them in the first round, which starts Saturday in late night.

The defending champion Dallas Mavericks.

Talk about an eye-opener to start the NBA Playoffs. This is the franchise that not only won it all a year ago but also knocked the Thunder out of the playoffs in the process.

It was a painful end to a glorious postseason.

You remember all the fun you had during that run, don't you, Thunder fans? It started before the playoffs even began when Denver coach George Karl popped off and called the Thunder and its coach, Mr. Mild Mannered himself, Scott Brooks, cocky. That was only the beginning of the fun.

There was Denver complaining about the disputed goaltending call in Game 1. Kevin Durant wearing his now-famous backpack to the postgame press conference. Russell Westbrook going 30 for 30.

And that was just the first round.

Then came the Memphis series. The Grizzlies' opening-game win on Thunder soil. The Thunder blowing a 16-point, fourth-quarter lead and losing in overtime in Game 3. The Thunder overcoming an 18-point deficit and winning in triple overtime in Game 4.

Oh, what fun.

Until the Western Conference Finals.

Everything fell apart for the Thunder, and it happened quickly. In Game 1, Dirk Nowitzki scored 48 points, and it felt like he could've scored 88. The Mavs star hit pretty much everything he shot. Field goals and free throws combined, he was 36 of 39.

The Thunder had no answer.

It was a sign of things to come.

A woeful start in Game 3 doomed the Thunder at home. A 15-point lead with five minutes left was blown in Game 4. Another late lead couldn't be held again in Game 5.

Just like that, the season was over.

And so with the Thunder struggling anew to close out games and the Mavs still suiting up the Dirk Devil, there is fear and trepidation running through the ranks. Will the Thunder survive the Mavs? Should this series be on upset alert?

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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