Western Finals Preview
DALLAS CHOMPING AT THE BIT TO GET BACK ON THE FLOOR
A week ago Sunday, the Dallas Mavericks finished off the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. Then, they told the press how great it was going to be to have a long layoff while Oklahoma City and Memphis beat each other up.
Things couldn't have gone any better for Dallas in that regard. Oklahoma City and Memphis beat each other up for seven full games...two of which went overtime...one of which went triple overtime...and the team taking the worst of it physically in terms of getting banged around in the middle is the team that survived.
Oklahoma City enters the Western Championships as tired as a team could be. Dallas enters as fresh as a team could be. And, Dallas has more depth!
That's led many to suggest this will be an easy series for the Dallas Mavericks. Oddsmakers seem to think so, Dallas is a whopping six-point favorite in Game One tonight, and is a heavy favorite to make it to the finals.
Maybe that's the way it's going to play out. Or, maybe, EVERYONE SHOULD REVIEW THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF THESE TEAMS BEFORE JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS!
Let's run the indicator stats we've been using throughout the playoffs to outline expectations in every series. Maybe this isn't the pending rout so many are suggesting. Maybe this is the beginning of the Kevin Durant era rather than the crowning achievement of the Dirk Nowitzki era...
OKLAHOMA CITY (4) at DALLAS (3)
Vegas Line: Dallas by 6, total of 193.5
Dallas opened at -5 and immediately got bet higher. That tells you that the market believes Dallas is the better team...and that they'll get a big boost from having so much time off. Just remember that sometimes a layoff leads to Game One rustiness rather than greatness. Oklahoma City can tell you about that. They lost at home to Memphis when the Grizzlies were supposed to be exhausted from the San Antonio series. Vegas is expecting more tempo here than you generally see this late in the playoffs. Both teams aren't afraid to push the ball. Though, the teams aren't running as much as the media would have you believe. Dallas used its quickness to set up three-point shots in the halfcourt game rather than playing run-and-gun. Oklahoma City had overtime inflate a couple of their scores in the Memphis series.
Pace: Oklahoma City 95.3 (13th in NBA), Dallas 93.4 (19th in NBA)
See, neither of these teams really runs. Not the way New York or Golden State runs anyway. Dallas was actually slower than average this year in the NBA. Oklahoma City was a bit faster than average. But, they actually slowed down after acquiring Kendrick Perkins because they were preparing for playoff style basketball. This series may be slower than those pace factors would indicate. But, slow with good shooters on both teams. Handicappers will have some challenges with the totals in this series.
Efficiency (points per 100 possessions)
Oklahoma City: 108.6 on offense, 104.0 on defense
Dallas: 107.6 on offense, 102.3 on defense
Dallas had the better regular season differential. They were +5.3 for the season, compared to +4.6 for Oklahoma City. Let's remember though that Oklahoma City closed the season very well. Once they started playing playoff style basketball, they thrived at it. With their current rotation, Oklahoma City would grade out very closely to Dallas over a large sample size. And, their offensive and defensive numbers would be very comparable. Good but not great defenses. Strong offenses with varied weaponry (Oklahoma City is more diverse when Russell Westbrook is sharing the ball, which you saw Sunday in Game Seven).
Rebounds and Turnover Rankings
Oklahoma City: 6th in rebound rate, 11th in offensive turnover rate
Dallas: 11th in rebound rate, 20th in offensive turnover rate
Hey, check that out. Oklahoma City is BETTER in two of the most important indicator stats. They're the strong rebounding team (and those full season rankings don't give them full credit for their new style). They handle the ball well because Russell Westbrook generally gets the ball to a guy who's ready to shoot. Dallas will pass the ball around a lot, which creates turnover opportunities. Oklahoma City hands away fewer points to opponents. You hear us say all the time that "defense and rebounding wins championships." Defense may be a wash in this series. Rebounding goes to Oklahoma City
Series Outline: We're about to find out how easy or hard it was to embarrass the Los Angeles Lakers. Dallas looked like world beaters during the best of times in that series. But, that's fairly common when three-point shots are falling. We talked about that during the Big Dance before Ohio State fell to Kentucky. They made a zillion treys in the Big 10 final over Wisconsin, and looked like the best team in the country. They did it again against George Mason and because the most popular choice to win the Dance. But they didn't make it out of the Sweet 16 because you can't count on the treys always falling.
Is Dallas an illusion created by great perimeter shooting against a hobbled, disjointed, dysfunctional defense? Or, are they REALLY as good as they looked? Hey, they played better than most expected against Portland too. So, it's certainly possible that Dallas was lying in wait to strike like a cobra, and two victims can testify to the venom.
If Dallas is as good as they've looked, and OKC is as tired as expected...than this first game could get ugly very quickly. And, the series could get out of hand before OKC has time to get its bearings. But, if Dallas is rusty at first, and OKC gets its bearings quickly, the stats suggest very strongly that OKC can win this series. This may be a pick-em series where fatigue is being strongly overrated. Or, it may be a cakewalk because fresh legs on a deep team is just too big a hurdle to overcome.
We've been working very closely with our sources on site to get a read on both teams. We've also been studying the history books closely to see what happens when fresh teams host tired teams in this round. If you haven't done that, you're flying blind. WE BET YOU HAVEN'T DONE THAT!
This is why the exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach of JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK is so crucial during the NBA playoffs. We have the stats. We have the trends. We have state-of-the-art simulation software that accounts for all the possibilities. We have connections in Las Vegas and offshore who tell us what the Wise Guys are doing and why they're doing it. And, most importantly in the playoffs, we have scouts and sources on site who are feeding us the information about each team we need to make the final call.
That's why things are going so well again this year for JIM HURLEY. And, that's why YOU should sign up NOW for the rest of the playoffs! You can do so now here at the website. You'll get all of our remaining plays in Oklahoma City-Dallas and Miami-Chicago (we'll preview Game Two here in Wednesday's edition of the NOTEBOOK). And, of course, you'll get all sides and totals in the NBA Finals too.
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