Thunder vs. Mavericks: Breaking down the matchups

Darnell Mayberry analyzes each matchup in the Thunder-Mavericks NBA Playoffs series.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: April 27, 2012
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POINT GUARD

RUSSELL WESTBROOK VS. JASON KIDD

ANALYSIS: Westbrook could run circles around the 39-year-old Kidd. But Kidd could make the 23-year-old Westbrook look silly with savvy. It's a matchup of old versus young, experience versus inexperience and wisdom versus world-class athleticism. Both will have their moments. Westbrook will have many more. But don't expect to see Kidd covering Westbrook much. Look for Dallas to protect its aging point guard by allowing him to cover Thabo Sefolosha.

EDGE: Westbrook.

SHOOTING GUARD

THABO SEFOLOSHA VS. DELONTE WEST

ANALYSIS: On paper, this is probably the least sexy matchup. But on the court, it could be one of the most compelling. Both are bulldog defenders, and West has a dangerous offensive repertoire to match. He might just be Dallas' X-factor. West likely will spend much of his time defending Westbrook, but Sefolosha will be responsible for slowing West. To match West's all-around production, Sefolosha must knock down open shots. But because Sefolosha made just 4-of-26 3-pointers in last year's postseason, we're not so sure he's ready to do that.

EDGE: West.

SMALL FORWARD

KEVIN DURANT VS. SHAWN MARION

ANALYSIS: Marion did a fabulous job defending Durant in last year's playoffs. According to NBA.com/stats, Durant scored just 20.1 points on 38 percent shooting per 36 minutes while Marion was on the court compared to 28.9 points on 55 percent shooting per 36 minutes while Marion was on the bench. But there's a reason Durant has won three straight scoring titles. He'll keep coming and coming, and the question is whether the 33-year-old Marion can still keep up. We don't think he can. And in the unlikely event that Marion does, Durant can now burn defenses by making plays for others.

EDGE: Durant.

POWER FORWARD

SERGE IBAKA VS. DIRK NOWITZKI

ANALYSIS: Nowitzki was a nightmare matchup for Ibaka in the playoffs last year. But Ibaka seemed to learn from it and showed this season that he's made strides against Nowitzki. Ibaka still has a tendency to allow Nowitzki too much space and bite on his pump fakes, so there still could be some rough stretches. On the other end, Nowitzki has little to worry about with Ibaka aside from the occasional midrange jumper. Expect the Mavs to try to exploit this matchup.

EDGE: Nowitzki.

CENTER

KENDRICK PERKINS VS. BRENDAN HAYWOOD

ANALYSIS: Two defensive-minded centers won't put much pressure on each other with their offense. To make an impact, they'll both have to find other ways to contribute. Rebounding and shot-blocking are two ways each can help. But with his screen-setting ability and defensive versatility — Perk has defended Nowitzki in stretches — Perkins seemingly has an advantage. Haywood also is a liability at the foul line, connecting on just 46.9 percent during the regular season.

EDGE: Perkins.

SIXTH MAN

JAMES HARDEN VS. JASON TERRY

ANALYSIS: They're two of the best in the business at their roles. Terry is more of a scorer off the bench. Harden can do a little of everything. It's Harden's versatility that gives him the advantage. Harden averaged six rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals along with 14.4 points against Dallas in the playoffs last year. Terry averaged just 1.6 rebounds, two assists and 1.4 steals to go with his 15.4 points in the five-game series with the Thunder.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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