If you told me the Mavs would have had a better record than OKC 13 games into the NBA season, I wouldn't have believed it. They face off in on Sunday and the Thunder are -5.5 on BetOnline NBA odds.
Dallas Is Overachieving
After the whole DeAndre Jordan mess, the Mavericks (9-4) were supposed to be a lottery team this season and maybe they still will be. But right now they have the third-best record in the Western Conference and bring a six-game winning streak into this one (matching their longest of last season). The only longer winning streak in the NBA belongs to the not-of-this-world Golden State Warriors.
The Mavs are off a 102-93 win over Utah in which Deron Williams, who was supposed to be way past his prime, had 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds and still hasn't missed a free throw yet (35-for-35). Dirk Nowitzki had 19 points and Zaza Pachulia, the guy the Mavs acquired after Jordan went back on his verbal agreement, had 15 points and 12 rebounds for his second straight double-double. Pachulia is helping owner Mark Cuban forget about losing Jordan as Pachulia has seven double-doubles on the season and is averaging 10.6 points and 10.0 rebounds. He might be the team MVP thus far.
The Mavericks, who start a three-game road trip in this one, are 8-5 against the spread on NBA odds and 6-7 'over/under.' They are 7-0 when holding opponents under 100 points.
Oklahoma City Waiting On Durant
The big question for the Thunder (7-6) is if superstar Kevin Durant returns from injury to play here. I'd like to tell you I know the answer, but he is questionable with that hamstring issue -- he has been doubtful so it appears that Durant is close. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says he expects Durant to play, but what else is he supposed to say?
The Thunder have lost three of their past four and were held to 90 points in Friday's home upset loss to the New York Knicks, not exactly a defensive powerhouse. Dion Waiters' potential game-tying shot rattled out at the buzzer. Why was Dion Waiters taking the potential tying shot and not Russell Westbrook? He had 34 points, seven rebounds and seven assists but hit only 11-for-29 from the field and 2-for-10 from long range. OKC was a ghastly 3-for-29 from long range. Won't win any games shooting like that. Through eight games, the Thunder led the NBA in 3-point shooting at better 40 percent. Since, OKC is 34-for-120 (28 percent) from long range.
“The difference in the game was clearly the 3-point line,” Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said of Friday's loss. “We just really weren’t able to make too many of ours.”
As for Durant, he has continued to increase his activity on the strained left hamstring. The original MRI came two Wednesdays ago, when there was a 7-10 day timetable to have a reevaluation.
I'm not saying that this happened as part of a ploy to make sure Durant re-signs with the Thunder as a free agent this summer or that it's not deserved, but Durant was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame on Thursday. Obviously he's a spectacular player and likely a potential future Basketball Hall Of Famer if he stays healthy. But already a Hall of Famer in Oklahoma? Durant has only been there since 2008 when the franchise moved from Seattle. And the guy is just 26. To be fair, Durant has been very active in his community there. Durant selected Westbrook to be his presenter. Presumably Westbrook will be inducted next year ahead of his free agency following the 2016-17 season.
Oklahoma City is 5-8 ATS on NBA picks and 6-7 O/U.
The Mavericks won three of four meetings. Chandler Parsons, who played at Florida for Thunder coach Donovan, averaged 21.8 points in those four games for the Mavs. Nowitzki averaged 21.0 points. Durant played in just one game and had 12 points. Westbrook played in all four and averaged 26.8 points, 10.5 assists and 8.3 rebounds. The Mavericks have taken five of the last six regular-season meetings with the Thunder after Oklahoma City won the previous seven. And here's a note you may not know: The Mavs' Carlisle and OKC's Donovan were teammates on the New York Knicks in 1987-88.
NBA Free Pick: Take the points unless Durant does play. Go 'over' the total of 209.5. The 'over' is 4-1 in the past five meetings. OKC is 2-8 ATS in its past 10 after a loss. Dallas is 4-0 ATS in its past four vs. the West.