Thunder at Mavs: Mavericks aren’t declining yet

BY MIKE BALDWIN Modified: February 27, 2009 at 1:18 am •  Published: February 27, 2009
The Thunder plays the Dallas Mavericks twice over the next four days, a game tonight at American Airlines Center and a rematch Monday night in the Ford Center.

For the Mavericks, two games against Oklahoma City are opportunities to improve playoff positioning. In upcoming seasons, Oklahoma City-Dallas games might have playoff implications for both teams.

Dallas is one of several aging Western Conference teams the Thunder must pass to reach the postseason.

"The Mavericks have four key players over age 30, so it’s understandable to target them as a team in decline,” said David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. "But I don’t believe it’s cut and dried. Successful veteran teams tend to perform at a high level longer.

"Dirk Nowitzki is still in his prime. And they have a proactive owner in Mark Cuban. A fractured economy and the unprecedented free agent class of 2010 are two key variables into the competitive mix.”

Even if the Thunder shows significant improvement the next year or two, a couple of perennial playoff teams must suffer a dropoff.

"No question in 2010-11, major stars in San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix could be on the decline,” said Chris Colston of USA Today. "As long as Gregg Popovich is coaching, the Spurs will be tough. Competitive owner Mark Cuban will do whatever he can to keep the Mavs viable.

"But it certainly appears that OKC has the chance to be in the playoff mix if it can continue to add pieces like it has the last two years.”

Unlike the Eastern Conference, where sub-.500 teams qualify for the playoffs, the West’s No. 8 seed has finished with 50, 42, 44, 45, 43, 47, 44, 47 and 44 wins the past nine seasons.



Thunder at Mavericks
→When: 7:30 tonight

→Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas

→TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37)

→Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1, WWLS-AM 640

→Live blog: Go to NewsOK.com

Three things to know
Dallas is 9-4 the past month, the losses coming against Boston, Houston, San Antonio and Utah.

The Mavericks are second in the league in free throw percentage (81.4 percent).

Dallas is 20-4 at home since Nov. 21 after opening the season with four straight home losses.

Probable Starters

Thunder (13-44)
Pos. Player Ht. Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Russell Westbrook 6-3 15.3 4.7 5.0
G Thabo Sefolosha 6-7 4.5 2.8 1.5
F Kevin Durant 6-9 26.3 6.7 2.9
F Jeff Green 6-9 16.8 6.9 2.1
C Nenad Krstic 7-0 4.5 2.8 1.5
Mavericks (34-23)
Pos. Player Ht. Pts. Reb. Ast.
G Jason Kidd 6-4 9.0 6.1 8.4
G Antoine Wright 6-7 7.1 2.0 1.0
F Dirk Nowitzki 7-0 25.0 8.2 2.4
F Josh Howard 6-7 18.3 5.2 1.7
C Erick Dampier 6-11 5.4 7.0 1.0

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