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Mavericks vs. Thunder: Western Conference finals preview

Dallas has the experience and depth to deal with Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.

May 16, 2011|By Mark Heisler
  • Thunder forward Kevin Durant drives past Grizzlies forward Shane Battier during the first half of Game 7 on Sunday.
Thunder forward Kevin Durant drives past Grizzlies forward Shane Battier… (Larry W. Smith / EPA )

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Dallas (57-25)

First round: def. Portland, 4-2

Second round: def. Lakers, 4-0

No. 4 Oklahoma City (55-27)

First round: def. Denver, 4-1

Second round: def. Memphis, 4-3

Season series: Dallas, 2-1.

Key stat: Five rotation players for the Mavericks, including their top two scorers, are 32 or older.

Five Thunder rotation players, including its top two scorers, are 23 and under.

Outlook: What do you call the game's brightest young player emerging in the spotlight at 22?

Endangered.

Unmatched, unfazed, if still untested, Kevin Durant's halo had such a glow, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi claimed he passed Kobe Bryant a year ago.

That was before Ron Artest chopped Durant's 30-point average to 25 and his shooting percentage to 35% in last spring's first-round series.

With Durant struggling against Memphis, scoring 19-11 in Games 5-6, shooting 10 for 28, Russell Westbrook, who creates shots more easily even if he misses more, took over to the horror of pundits. Even the mild-mannered Durant was caught on camera pleading his case to assistant coach Maurice Cheeks.

Durant wound up scoring 39 in their Game 7 win but is hardly home free.

Old as the Mavericks are, they're deep enough to throw veterans at you in waves.

Defenders will line up to crowd Durant, starting with Shawn Marion.

Where the Thunder needs Durant and James Harden to make threes, the Mavericks have Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic, Jason Kidd, Jose Barea, et al.

Prediction: Dallas in five or six. Too big, too experienced and, in the real problem, too many.

--MARK HEISLER

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