Oddsmakers like the eventual NBA champion to come from the East. The Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder each hope to wreck that notion.
The Western Conference Final is finally ready to tip after the Thunder took care of business Sunday, defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 7 of that series. The matchup between the 3rd-seeded Mavericks and 4th-seeded Oklahoma City gets underway Tuesday night in Dallas. ESPN has the action from American Airlines Center starting at 6:00 p.m. (PT).
Dallas opened as the series favorite priced at -230. Game 1 has the Mavs 6-point favorites at home with 193½ for the scoreboard number according to the Don Best odds screen.
The Mavericks have been idle since May 8 when they finished sweeping the Lakers out of the conference semis. That series followed a 6-game session against the Trail Blazers. Dallas has not been beaten at the betting window so far in the playoffs and brings a 14-game run covering spreads into this series.
It remains to be seen how much the layoff possibly hurts Dallas. The nine days between games will be the longest the Mavericks have had since the offseason, but if their performance after this year's All-Star break is any indication, there shouldn't be too much rust to shake free.
Dallas went into the midseason break on a good run, winning 13 of 14 straight up and covering 10 of 14 spreads. The Mavericks took about six days off and then reeled off five more wins in a row, covering three of the first five after the All-Star Game.
The opposite question rings out for Oklahoma City who is coming off a grueling and physical 7-game series opposite the Grizzlies with just one day to prepare for the Mavericks. How much that series may have taken out of the Thunder will be answered in the second half of Tuesday's opener.
The good news for both squads is this series won't take anything out of them in terms of travel with just 200 miles of Interstate 35 separating the two cities.
It's been over four months since the two clubs last met on the hardwood, and if a regular season trend continues then it's going to be a disappointing series for the Mavericks. The visitors won all three meetings on the schedule, Dallas winning twice in Oklahoma City and the Thunder triumphant in the lone game in Big D.
Kevin Durant and his pals were also the favorites in all three of those games, dropping the two at home as 4- and 2-point chalk and just covering the game in Dallas laying three. Dirk Nowitzki missed that January matchup at America Airlines Center with a sprained right knee.
Caron Butler had also suffered a knee injury that required surgery just prior to that January contest. It was originally thought he'd be lost for the entire season, but there is a possibility the 6-foot-7 forward could return at some point in this series.
Nowitzki and Durant are the big stars obviously, and both are having strong postseasons averaging 26.5 and 28.9 points per game respectively. Nowitzki scored over nine per game from the free-throw line in the series with Portland, a big factor in Dallas advancing, then shot 57 percent from the field in the broom job over the Lakers.
Durant bounced back from a poor performance in Game 6 vs. the Grizzlies to score 39 in Sunday's deciding victory. He averaged more than 29 per contest in the three games vs. the Mavs during the regular season.
While that duo rightfully commands much of the spotlight, the two most crucial players on the floor might be point guards Russell Westbrook and Jason Kidd. Westbrook came up huge in the triple-overtime Game 4 win at Memphis, then posted his third triple-double of the season in Sunday's win (14 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds).
Kidd turned in several big games along the way against Portland and Los Angeles, and is averaging over 10 points per game during the playoffs after scoring less than eight in the regular season. There's a very large 16-year age difference between him and Westbrook, so having the extra time off before this series should be beneficial for the elder Kidd.
The series continues Thursday on the same floor with ESPN televising the game starting at 6:00 p.m. (PT).