The Thunder (16-4) have matured and established themselves as one of the best teams in the NBA. They're coming off of a disappointing loss to the Clippers after an amazing 11-1 stretch. They must now face the team that defeated them in the playoffs last year, the Mavericks (14-8).

Although NBA odds have the Mavericks as a 2 point favorite and the total is 197, the Thunder are a very dangerous team. Kevin Durant has been on fire as of late while multitalented point guard Russell Westbrook has also filled up the statsheet in almost every category. 

The Dallas Mavericks are trying to get past an awful start to the season and a rash of injuries. The Mavs have been playing well lately but I don't expect any poster-style dunks on Kendrick Perkins in this game. 

Can Dallas "hold serve" at home?

Kevin DurantImproving conditioning?

Although the Mavs are riding a three game winning streak, the story of Dirk Nowitzki has been an utter disaster this season after winning the NBA Title last season. Dirk Nowitzki has worked year after year and finally got the result that he was looking for last season. Has he become complacent in this lockout shortened season and lost the hunger as he's aged?

The old Dirk Nowitzki would never take a four game absence to improve conditioning and deal with an injured knee. Nowitzki had plenty of time in the offseason to improve conditioning, especially a season that started on Christmas. I'm not a huge fan of the Miami Heat but Dirk got what he deserved and the Heat crushed the Mavericks on Christmas Day in front of a national audience.

Since coming back from his "time off", Nowitzki has averaged 10 points and 8.5 rebounds on 9 of 24 shooting from the field. Looks like the "conditioning" hasn't improved Dirk's game. On the season, Nowitzki is averaging 16.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on just 44.8% from the field. I've always had such great admiration for Dirk's work ethic but if his play doesn't improve he should really re-consider why he's still playing and make some decisions after the season. Don't expect the "new and improved Dirk Nowitzki" to be troublesome on defense or offense at this point to a Thunder team that features Kevin Durant and averages over 100 points per game.

Careful old man!

Jason Kidd has had a hall of fame career as one of the best passers that the NBA has ever seen. He's managed to reach this status by barely shooting 40% from the field. Nonetheless, Kidd was a solid contributor to the Mavericks championship season.

Kidd's been injured and has missed the last couple of games but backup point guard Rodrigue Beaubois has come from out of nowhere to seize the opportunity of the extra playing time that he's been getting.

In his last three games, Beaubois is averaging 13.3 points, 7 assists and 2.6 blocks per game. If Kidd doesn't get back into the lineup soon, he may lose his job. Beaubois is giving Dallas much more at this point than the soon to be 39 year old Jason Kidd. Rodrigue Beaubois will be tested on Wednesday as he faces Michael Westbrook. This will be a good measuring stick for the guard from Guadelope.

String music

I bet the Portland Trailblaizers management wish that they could have their top pick back when they drafted Greg Odon over Kevin Durant as Odon can't find his way to the court and Durant is one of the most prolific offensive bigmen in the game today. Kevin Durant is unstoppable and with a soft touch. It's only a matter of time before he wins MVP's and NBA Titles. 

In his last couple of games, Kevin Durant has been burning the net and the scoreboard lights out; he's averaged 36.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. Tyson Chandler isn't on Dallas anymore and there's nobody defensively to stop this one man wrecking crew. Bettors and fantasy leaguers: expect another 30 point, 10 rebound performance by this young phenom against a Mavericks team that has no answer in defending him.

Beard equals wisdom

I thought that I wouldn't repeat the old "fear the beard" expression as it's been used 1000 times. 13 is supposed to be an unlucky number but for the Thunder, it's been very lucky. The young man behind the beard (and the number 13 jersey), James Harden, gives opposing teams many reasons to fear him. He comes off the bench and still manages to produce like a starter.

At times in the playoffs last year, he was the best player on the court, Durant included. Harden is a very intelligent player that keeps a level head. He can shoot, pass, rebound, and most importantly come up with the timely shot. It's very rare that you ever see James Harden go cold for an extended period of time. He's the perfect player to compliment Durant and Westbrook and can play 3 different positions. Don't expect anything different than the usual spark that OKC get's off the bench from this young star.

Outcome of the game

Dallas is finally starting to get it together but Dirk Nowitzki isn't the same player for some reason. Don't let one loss to the Clips discourage you from taking OKC. They're younger, more talented, and hungrier than the Mavs. Take OKC with the 2 points in your NBA picks.

Wednesday NBA pick: Oklahoma City +2