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NBA Playoffs 2011, Mavericks Vs. Thunder: Game One

After over a week of rest, the Dallas Mavericks finally take the court again on Tuesday night. The Mavericks will be facing off against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Dallas' road through the 2011 playoffs has been both turbulent and easy - Dallas needed six games to put away the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, but swept away the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals. 

The Thunder took care of the Nuggets in five games in the first round, but struggled against the Grizzles, needing all seven games to advance to face to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals. 

Dallas went 2-1 against Oklahoma City in the regular season, but that mark is essentially meaningless. Dallas had Caron Butler in their two wins over the Thunder this season, and of course, he won't be playing against the Thunder in the playoffs. Oklahoma City didn't have Kendrick Perkins in the three games against the Mavericks, either, as he was acquired from the Boston Celtics later in the season.

An ESPN Insider article breaks down the new additions to both the Thunder and Mavericks' lineup, but also has the Mavericks winning the series in a simulation:

Although Durant might be the most exciting player in this series, the power ratings rank Dallas as the better squad, with a roughly one-point advantage over Oklahoma City at a neutral site. Combined with home-court advantage, that gives the Mavericks a solid (though not overwhelming) edge. Our series simulation projects that Dallas has a 61.7 percent chance to win.

Tim MacMahon over at ESPN Dallas also broke down various individual matchups in the series. One of the most interesting matchups to watch will be Russell Westbrook against Jason Kidd.

Jason Kidd vs. Russell Westbrook 

Westbrook: 14.9 points on 32 percent shooting, 9.1 assists, 4.0 rebounds 

Kidd (+9.1): 6.5 points on 25 percent shooting (4-of-17 3-pointers), 9.5 assists, 6.9 rebounds. 

Analysis: This one will probably surprise people who didn't watch the Mavs-Thunder games or have a foggy recollection of them. Westbrook's quickness is a major weapon, but he still wasn't effective against a man 16 years older than him. The Mavs' big men deserve a large share of the credit for containing the All-Star. The majority of Westbrook's shots against Kidd came in the paint, but he was only 10-of-26 on those attempts, including 8-of-18 at the rim.     

Containing Westbrook may be even more important than containing Kevin Durant, since Durant is likely going to get his points no matter what. The Grizzles were able to take advantage of Westbrook when he was off his game, and the Mavericks will look to do the same. 

Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT, with televised coverage being found on ESPN.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.