Oklahoma City Thunder Stat Brief: Thunder/Mavs (3/17/13)

The past two weeks have seen Dallas regain the Big D.

The Thunder take on the Mavs for the fourth and final time of the regular season today. The first three matchups all went Oklahoma City's way and now a desperate Dallas team in 10th place in the West will try to steal the last game of this series at home.

Defensive Improvement

In every single one of the first three games, the Thunder had a lower turnover percentage, a higher offensive rebounding percentage and a better free throw-to-field goal attempt ratio. But if you think that led to three blowout wins, you would be wrong. The most recent game was a very comfortable victory for Oklahoma City, but the first two wins were earned in overtime.

That was due to good shot defense by Dallas (and off nights on the part of the Thunder). That seemed a bit flukey at the time due to the Mavs' poor defense and Oklahoma City confirmed that by imposing their will offensively in the third meeting. However, while the Mavs still allow 101.9 points per game, 27th in the league, they are gradually improving on the defensive end.

Since getting mauled by Houston 136-103 on March 3, Dallas has allowed an average of only 95 points in its past six contests. It helps that they have played a few offensively challenged teams such as the Pistons and Timberwolves, but that stretch also includes games against the Rockets and Spurs who rank in the top five in scoring.

Offense Leading the Charge

Now Dallas still should not be confused for a great defensive team by any stretch of the imagination. But if the Mavs can continue to play at at least respectable defense, their good offense might be able to pick up the slack. At 101.2 points per game, they rank seventh in the NBA and their effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of .502 is 10th. Even if Dallas settles somewhere in between the first two contests with OKC (eFG% of .473 and .442 for the Thunder) and the third game (an eFG% of .529 for OKC), the Mavs might be able to score enough to make this another close contest.

Dallas is in desperation mode, which might help them give the Thunder problems again. Two of the three matchups so far have been decided in overtime. It is quite likely we get another close game today.