The Dallas Mavericks welcome a divisional opponent when the Oklahoma City Thunder play the second of a back-to-back at the American Airlines Center on Saturday night.
Dallas is fresh off a 95-94 buzzer-beating a win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. Forward Harrison Barnes made the game winner. The victory was the team’s second victory in the past three games, and just missed out on a three-game winning streak when they fell to the Boston Celtics in overtime at home on Monday night.
The Thunder are coming off what is by far their most impressive win of the season, having soundly defeated the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors 108-91 at home. Even with that victory, Oklahoma City is 8-9 and in eighth place in the Western Conference.
Here are three things to watch when the teams meet Saturday:
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Fresh off a big win
The 17-point win over the defending over the Warriors showed what this team can be when everything comes together. Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook are All-Star -caliber players, and in this game the trio collectively filled up the stat for a collective total of 76 points, 26 rebounds and were a plus-41 on the night.
Against Golden State, the reigning NBA MVP poured in 34 points and was one assist shy of a triple-double. This season, George has helped ease the scoring burden the All-Star point guard, but Russell is still second on the team in scoring and first in rebounds and assists.
Arrival of George and Anthony
Last year Russell Westbrook was a one-man band in desperate need of secondary scoring. Many assumed one of the league’s best point guards would leave via free-agency sometime in the near future.
Before the start of this season, Thunder general manager Sam Presti traded for two superstars in forwards’ Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. At the conclusion of this season, the front office have a player termination option for Anthony, while George can opt out and hit free agency. But, Westbrook signed a 5-year, $205 million contract extension.
Inconsistency an issue
The 8-9 record says a lot about where this team is right now. George and Westbrook are versatile, elite offensive talents, while Anthony is one of the best one-on-one scorers in the game.
There have also been some rough patches. After starting the season, the Thunder dropped six of its next nine games before taking down Golden State. This group has tremendous potential, but head coach Billy Donovan has to figure out how to get these players to mesh in a short period of time.
Peter Dawson: 817-390-7657