Commentary

In West, fresh legs top young legs

Mavs have had a long break but face a different Thunder squad than they've seen

Originally Published: May 16, 2011
By David Hess | TeamRankings.com
Getty ImagesJames Harden's increased minutes have given the Thunder a lift.

Poor Dallas. The highest remaining seed in the Western Conference was seemingly forgotten amid the exciting Thunder-Grizzlies series despite the Mavericks' dismantling of the defending NBA champions, the Lakers. However, the possibly least heralded of the remaining four playoff teams might have the best shot of advancing to the NBA Finals. Here are three things you should know about how the Mavs and Thunder match up:

Oklahoma City's new twist

As was the case for Miami-Chicago, we probably shouldn't pay too much attention to the results of the regular-season series between these two teams. In three games, only 14 minutes played between the Thunder and Mavericks featured player lineups that we could see again in the playoffs. (Not that it matters, but Oklahoma City outscored Dallas 26-25 in those 14 minutes.)

What we should pay attention to, however, are the recent increased minutes for Nick Collison and James Harden. As John Hollinger pointed out, Collison is one of the Thunder's most valuable players and could well be the most underrated player in the NBA. At the same time, Harden's creative ability provides a much-needed third option after Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.