Thunder-Mavericks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 17, 2013
While the Oklahoma City Thunder have the NBA's third-best record and are playing well, they haven't exactly been dominant on the road. Kevin Durant's career night ensured Oklahoma City escaped with an overtime win in its last trip to Dallas, and the Thunder return there Sunday night trying to win their 10th straight - including the postseason - against the Mavericks and for the 11th time in 13 games overall. Durant scored 26 points, Russell Westbrook had 23 and Serge Ibaka added 20 as Oklahoma City pulled away late to beat the lowly Magic 117-104 on Friday. The Thunder (49-17) trail San Antonio by 1 1/2 games for the top seed in the West Conference. "We just didn't play with the focus we needed,'' coach Scott Brooks said. "We missed too many free throws, layups and missed opportunities.'' While Oklahoma City won its seventh straight at home and trails only Miami and Denver for the league's best home record, it's been a different story on the road. The Thunder claimed solid victories over New York and the Los Angeles Clippers during a recent three-game road winning streak, but have lost six of 10 there following a 105-93 loss at San Antonio on Monday. Now Oklahoma City looks to get back on track against the Mavericks, who rallied late to force overtime in a 117-114 loss in the last meeting in Dallas on Jan. 18. Durant, though, finished with a career-high 52 points in that win, sinking all 21 of his free throws and going 5 for 9 from 3-point range as part of a 13-for-31 shooting night. The All-Star forward, who also had 40 points in a 111-105 overtime win over Dallas on Dec. 27, has scored 37.0 per game while making 36 of 37 from the free-throw line in the season series. Westbrook, the team's second-leading scorer, finished with a team-high 24 points in a 112-91 home victory on Feb. 4. He also has reached 30 points in each of his last two regular-season games in Dallas. The Thunder have averaged 113.5 points on 54.5 percent shooting in back-to-back victories. They've also scored 113.3 per game and shot 76 for 91 (83.5 percent) from the free-throw line against the Mavericks. Dallas, though, has allowed 90.8 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting over their last four games heading into this meeting. The Mavericks (31-34) are trying to stay in the playoff chase, trailing the eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers by three games as they continue a stretch with eight of nine at home. Reserve guard Rodrigue Beaubois gave the team a lift with 18 points as Dallas captured its sixth win in eight games with a 96-86 victory over Cleveland on Friday. "We have to make sure that everybody's ready,'' Beaubois said. "Even if you don't play, the next game maybe you're going to get in.'' Dirk Nowitzki, who had 13 points on 6-of-17 shooting on Friday, may have a difficult getting back on track since he's averaged 12.3 points on 11-of-41 (26.8 percent) shooting in this series. Shawn Marion, who led the team with 23 points in the January loss, is expected to miss his sixth straight game because of a strained left calf. The Thunder have won four in a row in Dallas and nine straight overall against the Mavericks, including last season's playoff sweep.
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