“They're still trying to put Dirk and Terry into situations where they get an advantage, forcing you to help,” said the Thunder's Nick Collison. “Then they're really good passers.
“They're still tough. Maybe they didn't have the regular season they wanted. But now that they're in the playoffs, I think this is where they kind of wanted to get all year.”
Still, the Thunder is thrilled that Barea and Chandler are elsewhere.
Chandler dominated the paint defensively a year ago. The Chandler/Brendan Haywood center combo was much tougher than the Haywood/Ian Mahinmi duo that Dallas now deploys.
And Barea long has been a Thunder foil. He's about five-foot-nothing but magically finds his way to the basket possession after possession, no matter if he's in Maverick blue or Timberwolf green.
Delonte West and Roddy Beaubois are good and interesting players in Barea's stead, but the Thunder will take its chances with them, thank you very much.
Still, this won't be an easy series for the Thunder, because of that Dallas defense.
“They're still a veteran team, a smart team,” Fisher said. “Any team that's won a championship in recent years … they're still very capable.
“They had some injuries and some ups and downs of the season. But what they've continued to do, similar to last year, was on the defensive end. I think they've figured out a way, even without Chandler's protection at the basket, to still be a really solid defensive team.”
The Thunder-Mav series a year ago was fiercely contested. All five games decided by single digits.
The Mavericks were the better team a year ago. This year, the Thunder is the better team. But neither has played well down the stretch, which is why it will take the Thunder awhile to advance.
Thunder wins in seven, then Cuban can hit the free agent market and resume trying to win an NBA championship.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.