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Mavs begin road trip Wednesday in Oklahoma City
By: Freddy Wander - StatFox
Published: 11/6/2013  at  5:37:00 AM
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DALLAS MAVERICKS (3-1)

at OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (2-1)

Tip-off: Wednesday, 9:35 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma City -7.5, Total: 210.5

The fully-stocked Thunder, with star point guard Russell Westbrook back in the lineup, are back on the court Wednesday night to host the surging Mavericks, who are coming off a blowout win over the Lakers.

Dallas has looked much better this season than in recent years. With the addition of SG Monta Ellis, the team has become quicker and a tougher matchup for opponents. Dallas is now 3-1 (SU and ATS) on the season, but its lone loss was the team's only road contest. Oklahoma City was glad to have PG Russell Westbrook back in the lineup on Sunday as he poured in 21 points with seven assists in a 103-96 win over the Suns. In the two games before the return of Westbrook, the Thunder were really having trouble finding offense outside of SF Kevin Durant, shooting 39.4% FG and 22.1% threes in those two games. Including the 2012 playoffs, Oklahoma City has a 10-game SU win streak going in this matchup, but are only 5-5 ATS in those games. During the regular season in 2012-13, the Thunder won all four times in the series by an average of 9.0 PPG, even with two of the victories coming in overtime. The extra sessions helped make the Over 2-1-1 last season and 5-4-1 in the past 10 meetings.

Can the Mavericks keep the score close on Wednesday night? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Dave has opened the season at 60% ATS on his NBA Best Bets (3-2), while StatFox Brian is 2-1 ATS in NBA Best Bets since Saturday. The experts combined for a 61% ATS mark (11-7) on all NBA picks on Tuesday night.

The Mavericks have scored at least 105 points in each of their four games (114.3 PPG) and just put forward their best offensive effort on Tuesday night against the Lakers with 123 points on 52.1% FG and 13-of-27 threes (48.1%). They spread the ball around on Tuesday, allowing seven different players on the team to score in double digits. On the defensive side of the ball, Dallas has allowed 106.3 PPG, not a great number, but one they have been able to overcome with their efficient shooting. SG Monta Ellis (25.0 PPG, 53.1% FG, 5.0 APG) was acquired in the offseason, and is already rewarding the Mavericks with plenty of solid play. On Tuesday night, Ellis scored 30 points and added nine assists in Dallas’ win. In last year’s two matchups that Ellis had against the Thunder while he was with the Bucks, he averaged only 5.5 PPG on a dreadful 4-for-20 shooting from the field. PF Dirk Nowitzki (20.3 PPG, 8-for-15 threes, 5.5 RPG) seemed to take a backseat on Tuesday night (11 points, 8 rebounds) as he watched Ellis shred the Lakers defense to pieces. Nowitzki may need to take the driver’s seat on offense again on Wednesday, as he has averaged 22.3 PPG (47% FG) and 7.9 RPG in 54 games (52 starts) against Oklahoma City in his career. Tuesday night saw another solid performance from C DeJuan Blair (9.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.8 SPG) as he scored 10 points, grabbed eight rebounds and added five steals and four assists in just 19 minutes on the court.

Oklahoma City struggled mightily on offense without the aid of PG Russell Westbrook, including a paltry 81 points against the Timberwolves in the second game of the season. Upon Westbrook’s return, the team put up 103 points, but still shot a low 42.7% from the field. The Thunder now rank last in the NBA with a 39.4% FG clip. Oklahoma City is currently allowing opponents to score 98.0 PPG on a mere 42.8% shooting (7th-best in NBA). SF Kevin Durant, the NBA’s top scorer in three of the past four seasons, once again leads the league in that category with 29.3 PPG. Without Westbrook on his side, Durant shot only 37.1% in the first two games, but made 10-of-19 baskets in Westbrook's debut on Sunday. In 21 career starts against the Mavericks, Durant has averaged 24.1 PPG on 42% FG, but last season he poured in 35.5 PPG on 47% FG and 45-of-46 FT in the four meetings. Westbrook shot only 5-of-16 (31.3%) from the field in his season debut, but was able to get to the line where he was 11-for-14 (78.6%). In the four games between these franchises last season, Westbrook torched the Mavericks for 26.5 PPG, 7.3 APG, 5.3 RPG and 2.3 SPG. PF Serge Ibaka has only one block through the first games, which is a huge drop-off from his 3.0 BPG last season and 3.7 BPG in 2011-12. He also has struggled over the first three games shooting the ball (11-for-40, 27.5% FG) as he tried unsuccessfully to fill the offensive void left by Westbrook.

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