Who Ya Got? Mavs-Thunder Predictions

All right everybody, first take a moment to appreciate. Your Mavs are in the Western Conference Finals ... Okay we're done. Now it's time for 'What Happens Next' - including special contributions from Followill and Coop, picks from the national 'experts,' and predictions from The 75-Member Staff.



Western Conference Finals, the Dallas Mavericks versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. What's everybody's pleasure?

Chris Webber, TNT-- Chasing the man off the three-point line, getting a hand up in shooter's faces; I think this is gonna have a series with some really great shooters, and whoever makes the effort of chasing that guy off the line and closing out strong, along with interior and everything else. They just have so many great shooters. Getting to the shooter, I think, is gonna be the key.

Kenny Smith, TNT -- I think that James Hardin is the big key. Between Jason Terry and JJ Barea and [Harden], those are the guys who're gonna make the difference. Dirk Nowitzki has an advantage at the four; Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are not gonna guard him at the three-point line or those in-between areas. And then, there's no one on the Mavericks team that can guard Westbrook or Durant on a consistant basis. So, what does it come down to? Those three guys, whoever dominates. I think James Harden will have a good series. I think Oklahoma City goes to the NBA Finals.

Charles Barkley, TNT -- It's gonna be a very difficult series for Oklahoma City; they're gonna play Kevin Durant well. Stevenson's gonna play him, and Shawn Marion. The one weakness of Kevin Durant's game is he doesn't post up. That's what separates Dirk and Carmelo Anthony, who are the two other best scorers-- they're not gonna let a little guy play them. If you go back and look at Oklahoma City's last series, Durant struggled at times when little guys guarded him, whether it was Tony Allen or Shane Battier, because he makes all his baskets on quickness and jumpers, so little guys can play him. But Dallas is too big and too deep, they got no answers for Dirk, their depth is much better. Dallas is going to the NBA Finals.

Michael Dugat, Fox Sports Southwest, dallasbasketball.com -- Of their players to have given more than 100 minutes in these playoffs, the average age of the nine Mavericks is 31.6. For the 10 Thunder players to meet the same minutes requirement, it is 24.9. Kidd is 16 years older than Westbrook. Nowitzki is a decade older than Durant . . . Oklahoma City gave us cracks to dig into by forfeiting large leads to the Grizzlies and often appearing out of synch or sloppy in crunch time. They will be the superiorly gifted athletic team, but have they built the mental wealth, the knowledge to fall back on, to defeat a Dallas team that has discarded tired questions of their own mental fortitude to show precise execution in the most crucial of moments?

Coach Fain, dallasbasketball.com -- I'll take Mavs in 5. Both teams have one player the other can't guard (Nowitzki and Westbrook), the difference is one of them is a Hall of Famer and former MVP. Oh, and the Mavs have more depth and experience, and don't have to worry about defending in the post. Mavericks in five.

David Lord, dallasbasketball.com -- These are two teams whose "way to win" is quite similar: an underrated defense that tries to force the opposition into uncomfortable places, and an offense with skilled players not afraid to make outside shots. In the end, it will be the advantages of playoff experience for the Mavs, versus the Thunder's extra youth and athleticism. Both teams will have their moments, but in the end, Dallas' growing ability to embrace a challenge and fight through adversity will get them to the Finals in a "whatever it takes" fashion. Mavericks in six.

Kevin Brolan, dallasbasketball.com -- Mavs are confident and well-rested. Durant and Westbrook will do their damage, but that's about it. Dirk is a bad matchup for every team, but he's an absolute nightmare for OKC's personnel. Mavericks in six.

BJ Stahl, dallasbasketball.com -- Oklahoma City is a tough team, their home fans are ornery, Durant is just scary, and Westbrook is the kind of point guard Dallas has problems with. The Mavericks will prevail, but the Thunder will make them earn it -- Game Seven is going to be insane. Mavericks in seven.

Luke Kammrath, dallasbasketball.com -- In retrospect it is clear that Game 5 of the Portland series was the exorcising of the demons of 05-06/06-07. I was hopeful but skeptical at the time, but after the shellacking of the Lakers there is no doubt. Therefore, a single ball-hog can't beat these Mavs and so they need him to shoot more than 20 shots a game because the OKC record with him shooting 20 or less shots in the playoffs is 6-0 while it is 2-4 when he shoots more than 20 (and one of those was a triple overtime victory and the other was a close 4 point win). But it's not the ball-hog you might be thinking (I'll give you a hint, his name rhymes with "nestbrook"). Mavs in five.

Royce Young, dailythunder.com -- I like OKC a lot in this series because I think Dallas will have a hard time containing Durant and controlling Westbrook. But something in me can't shake that it really feels like it's Dirk's time. He's playing at such a high level, as are the Mavs, that I can't go against the hot team. The Thunder are going to be right in this series, but a Game 7 on the road isn't easy to win. And I think that's what it comes down to. Mavericks in seven.

Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game -- The Mavs haven't won back-to-back series because of hot shooting, but because their commitment to offensive execution in these playoffs has no equal. Contending with their ball movement is a difficult feat, and an incredibly difficult one if Westbrook is side-stepping the offense to pull up for mid-range jumpers. There isn't a terribly compelling reason why the Thunder will be able to disrupt the most beautifully structured and productive offense remaining in the playoffs, and the strength of the Mavs' offense should power them through to their second ever NBA Finals appearance, prediction jinx permitting. Mavericks in six.

Kurt Helin, NBC Sports -- Honestly, this may be the hardest prediction of the playoffs. I can see it going either way. My guess is, however, that this will become a jump-shooting contest as both teams are good at protecting the paint. And in that instance favors Dallas. But it will be close. Mavericks in seven.

Ben Golliver, CBS Sports -- So far during these playoffs, no one has better or more consistent than the Mavericks. Dallas has home court advantage, a ton of time to rest heading into Game 1 and the best performer in this year's postseason in Nowitzki. They have the best bench, a more-than-capable center and are playing with the urgency that comes with this possibly being the group's last stand. The Thunder bring two of the most dynamic young players to the game, a solid rotation and. more than anything, a degree of athleticism that Dallas hasn't yet seen. Dallas has answered tough tests already and they should be up to this challenge. Mavericks in six.

Chuck Cooperstein, Coop and Nate -- Too much experience, too much firepower. Mavs in five.

Nate Newton, Coop and Nate -- If Russell Westbrook plays more to the triple-double side of his alter ego, it could be a nightmare for the Mavs because I see no one stopping him. By the same token, if he turns into Mr. Hyde and puts up 30 shots a game while neglecting Kevin Durant then it's over in 5. Mavs in seven.

Bryan Broaddus, ESPNDallas.com -- Matching up with the Thunder will be a struggle for the Mavs, but the veteran leadership will be the difference. Mavs in six.

Jeff Caplan, ESPNDallas.com -- This should be a wildly entertaining series, but in the end the Mavs will have more success guarding the Thunder's two stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, than OKC will have defending Dirk and Dallas' perimeter shooters. Mavs in seven.

Tim MacMahon, ESPNDallas.com -- The Thunder will crumble during crunch time against the much more experienced Mavs. Mavs in six.

Randy Galloway, Galloway & Company -- Actually, I like the Mavs in seven, but since I haven't been right yet in these playoffs lets go with OKC. Thunder in five.

Ian Fitzsimmons, Galloway & Company -- OKC has no answer for Dirk. Ms. Universe distracts Westbrook just long enough for lil JJ to drive by and hit the gamewinner to clinch in 6. Mavs in six.

Matt Mosley, Galloway & Company -- Too much experience for the Thunder. Westbrook squeezes of 32 shots per game. Mavs in five.

Ben Rogers, Ben and Skin -- OKC is too young to snatch the pebble from JKidd's wrinkled, shaking hand. Mavs will ride their experience - and Dirk's wide, German supershoulders all the way back to the NBA finals where they will attempt to avenge 2006. Mavs in six.

Jeff "Skin" Wade, Ben and Skin -- All you need to know is that I picked Round 1, I called the Laker collapse back in February, and I invented the Caron Butler trade . . . so get at me. Mavs in six.

Mike Fisher, DB.com and Fox Sports -- If there's ever a situation where one team has paid its dues for a crowd while the other team is an heir-in-waiting, this is it. Someday soon, the Thunder will develop into a team experienced enough to out-execute an opponent. But in this case, the "executioner'' is Dallas. Mavs in six.

Mark Followill, Mavs TV play-by-play voice and DB.com columnist -- If anyone thinks Oklahoma City isn't capable of winning this series they are mistaken. They are more than capable and I expect a long, hard-fought series. If rust is going to be a factor it will be in game one but I think the Mavs get it together and win. I have more faith in the Mavs ability to execute in late game situations and because of that and the hunger/determination of Hall-of-Famers like Dirk and Kidd and other accomplished vets chasing a ring, gimme Mavs in 6.



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