The Oklahoma City Thunder will be looking for a good start in their quest of the NBA Championship, as they host the Dallas Mavericks in their play-off opener. It will be the first of back-to-back home games in the seven match series for OKC, meaning the ball is firmly in their court to snatch an early lead.
The Mavericks, led by Dirk Nowitzki, will be no easy opposition for Kevin Durant and co, despite narrowly finishing sixth in the Western Conference, with a final record of 42-40.
Dallas enjoy better end-of-season form
Despite finishing third in the Western Conference, and boasting the fifth highest win count of any team in the league, the Thunder finished the season fairly unspectacularly.
A 5-5 run in featured disappointing losses including a 112-114 loss to the Sacramento Kings, and a 98-102 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Back in March however, the Thunder went on a run of eight-straight wins, which featured their trademark attacking basketball. Since the beginning of that run back on March 14th, Oklahoma City have only scored less than 100 points in two games, one of those being the aforementioned regular season curtain-closer against the Spurs.
The Mavericks meanwhile won seven of their final ten matches, including a six-game win streak that featured some stellar defensive performances, and victories over play-off spot rivals the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies.
The Mavericks also haven't lost at home since the last time the record-breaking Golden State Warriors visited, which was back on the 18th of March. Away from home however, Nowitzki and co. have lost two of their last three games.
Not only this, but the Thunder completed the sweep on the Dallas outfit during the regular season, winning all four matchups between the two franchises.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook looking to run the show
There's no doubt that all eyes will be on the Thunder's ever-impressive duo, with both expected to return to the starting line-up. The partners-in-crime were rested against the Spurs, meaning they should be at their sharpest against Dallas.
Durant, 28, finished as the NBA's third highest average scorer with 28.2 points per game. Meanwhile Russell Westbrook has averaged 23.5 points, but is also one of only four players in the league to have grabbed over ten assists per game over the course of the season.
Following some impressive end-of-season performances, Enes Kanter could be one to watch if he does start tonight. The Turkish center was the Thunder's highest scorer and rebounder against the Portland Trail Blazers, and the Spurs.
Meanwhile Dallas' hopes will lie with their experienced leader Dirk Nowitzki. The 37-year old has averaged 18.3 points per game, which sees him sit just inside the top 30 on the NBA average scoring charts.
Point guard Deron Williams is Dallas' second highest scorer this season with just over 14 points, whilst also averaging a team-high 5.8 assists.
The Thunder could welcome back as many as four players from the loss to San Antonio, with Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and Mitch McGary all in line to return. Whilst the former trio were rested, McGary missed the match due to an undisclosed personal reason.
Devin Harris, J.J. Barea, and David Lee of the Mavericks will all be touch-and-go up until tip-off, with finger, groin, and foot injuries potentially keeping them out respectively.