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Thunder vs. Mavericks: The Oklahoma City-Dallas rivalry is on

NBA — After the Thunder and Mavericks met in a grand playoff series last year, the two franchises will never look at each other the same way again.
by Jenni Carlson Published: December 18, 2011

Oklahoma City, you've always wanted a rivalry with Dallas.

No hiding that.

I mean, all those trips down I-35 to watch the Red River Rivalry or shop the Galleria or explore the Six Flags have been fun. But really, everyone has had that moment where you've told someone there where you're from, seen a look of “Oh, you're from Oklahoma City? How quaint” and wanted to wipe it right off their face.

Yes, a little rivalry would be nice.

Now, OKC, you have one courtesy of the Thunder and the Mavericks.

The way Oklahoma City and Dallas look at each other will never be the same. Not after what happened last spring. Not with what this season promises.

After a grand playoff series last season, these two teams are among the Western Conference favorites this season. Can the experience of the Mavs triumph? Or can the youth of the Thunder win out? Can the big-market, big-spending team buy another title? Or can the small-market, upstart, build-it-from-the-bottom bunch win out?

The differences in the two franchises make the rivalry even richer.

As if to make sure they pick up where they left off, the NBA scheduled them to play four times in 16 days, two exhibitions and two for-real games.

The first came Sunday, a 106-92 OKC preseason victory in Dallas.

Exhibitions and regular-season games are nice, but those games sustain a rivalry.

They do not a rivalry make.

Rivalries are born and bred in the playoffs, and of course, you know what happened last May. The teams faced off in a wildly entertaining series in the Western Conference Finals. The Mavs won in five games en route to an NBA championship, but every game against the Thunder was decided by single digits.

It was a battle.

That series against the Mavs wasn't as frenetic as the first round against the Nuggets. Who could forget George Karl calling out Scott Brooks as cocky? And that was before the series even started.

It only got more interesting from there. There were hard fouls. There were uncharacteristic technicals.

But with Denver losing half of its team — Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler are locked in contracts with Chinese teams until March — the Thunder-Nuggets rivalry may cool before it ever really gets heated.

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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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