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NBA Playoffs: Mavericks Vs. Thunder, Game Four

The Dallas Mavericks find themselves in an excellent position on Monday night headed into Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Dallas has an opportunity to take a commanding three games to one series lead and become one win away from headed back to the NBA Finals.

Of course, the Oklahoma City Thunder will have something to say about that as they look to even up the series at 2-2 tonight in Game 4, as the Thunder play host to the Dallas Mavericks.

Dallas broke Oklahoma City's home court advantage on Saturday with their 93-87 win over the Thunder in Game 3. The Thunder managed to contain Dirk Nowitzki in Game 3, holding him to 18 points - and a rather ugly 18 points too as Nowitzki shot just 7-for-21 from the field, including going 1-for-6 from beyond the arc. The Thunder also held Jason Terry to 13 points and a poor shooting night as well, as Terry went 3-for-12 on field goal attempts. 

Still, the Mavericks were able to hold on for the Game 3 win - despite the poor shooting night, and also despite Russell Westbrook's 30 points. Westbrook, though, once again had more turnovers than assists - turning the ball over seven times compared to just four assists. Dallas will likely look to continue to pressure Westbrook into more turnovers in Game 4.

While things do look pretty good for the Mavericks headed into Game 4, having already broke Oklahoma City's home court and everything, there is some bleak news as well. Per Tim MacMahon, Danny Crawford is working as the lead official for Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Dallas Mavericks are 3-16 in playoff games officiated by Danny Crawford. The Mavericks are 5-14 against the spread in playoff games refereed by Crawford since 2001 compared to 56-42-2 vs the spread in all other playoff games in that span (according to information from The reason this is important is that the spread is essentially one of the best ways to look at what a team is expected to do in a game. Historically, the spread has been shown to be an accurate predictor of what happens in a game - that is, teams are generally .500 against the spread over large samples of games. Therefore, the fact that the Mavericks seem to underperform compared to expectations (as proxied by the spread) in games reffed by Crawford is possibly more compelling evidence than the 3-16 overall record.

Nowitzki and the Mavericks will have to overcome a desperate Thunder team, home court advantage and Danny Crawford on Monday if they want to take a 3-1 series lead.

Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. CDT. Televised coverage can be found on ESPN.

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