Mavs vs. Thunder preview: Banged-up Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki clash

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki are banged up but should be able to play on Monday night as the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Dallas Mavericks.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have slipped a bit of late, especially on the road. Scott Brooks' team hasn't won two games in a row in the past eight outings. But after Kyrie Irving broke down the Thunder defense to lead the lowly Cavaliers to a win on Saturday, Oklahoma City begins a three-game home stretch Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks.

It's a good opportunity for the Thunder to get back on track considering Oklahoma City is 20-3 at home this season.

Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant lead their teams into the battle, and the two stars come into it a little banged up. Nowitzki will give it a go after sitting out the last two games with a right adductor strain, according to the Dallas Morning News. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant's rib contusion suffered in the Thunder's loss to the Cavaliers puts his status in question. Durant was kneed in the back by Cavs wing Alonzo Gee but returned after the unintentional hit.

The Mavericks are coming off a win at Phoenix, where a fourth-quarter burst pushed them past the Suns on the second night of a back-to-back.

An expected track meet

The Mavs and Thunder have put on two entertaining shows this season. Both times the game went into overtime, and both times Durant scored in bunches to lead Oklahoma City to victory.

Durant, leading the NBA at 29.6 points per game, scored 40 points in a 111-105 December victory and went for a career-high 52 in a 117-114 overtime win on Jan. 18.

The high-scoring affairs are a product of the matchup. Dallas, despite being 20-27 on the season, has been a tough opponent for the Thunder. The Mavericks have a so-so offense at 100.7 points per game (ninth in the league), but they rank No. 5 in pace, according to The Thunder's aptness for jump-shooting -- resulting in long rebounds -- and turnover issues have been enough to put the Mavs in transition against Oklahoma City and its top offense in the NBA.

Key matchup

The Mavericks will present problems with a backcourt duo in Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo that will spread the Thunder's perimeter defender, Thabo Sefolosha, thin. Sefolosha has locked down Mayo, who is averaging 11 points against the Thunder this year, seven below his season average.

Meanwhile, Collison outplayed fellow former UCLA Bruins guard Russell Westbrook in December, outscoring him 32-16. Westbrook then outscored Collison 31-15 in the last meeting of the two teams.

Time: 8 p.m. ET


Odds: Oklahoma City is a nine-point favorite at home.

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