Four-Pointer: Previewing the Oklahoma City Thunder

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Mavericks travel the long, arduous trip up to Oklahoma -- okay, it's not even an hour by charter flight. But in a potential first round playoff match-up, this game has major implications.

What has Oklahoma City done lately?

Although they've won five of their last seven, they're also 5-5 in their last ten. The team is treading water, giving up some valuable wins to let San Antonio take the number one seed, but still beating enough squads to remain a terrifying playoff match-up.

What are the Thunder's biggest strength and weakness?

Kevin Durant is a superstar. He's a player that you can rely on when it gets tough. He already has more than 2,000 points on the season, while none of his teammates have broken the 1,000 point plateau. Obviously, that's in large part due to Russell Westbrook's injury problems this season, but in his absence, the team relied on Durant and thrived. That's a strength and a weakness in one, I guess. Durant is the man, but also, he's the man. Like Dirk in 2011, Durant is going to need a couple of his teammates to step up every single night in the playoffs. Are his capable of that?

What's the biggest matchup to watch?

Caron Butler on Vince Carter. Don't you love reading that? I was a huge fan of Butler in Dallas and it'll be good to see him back on the court playing meaningful minutes. And it's not just nostalgia -- the bench could determine who wins this game, and a lot of it hinges on these two veterans and the tone they set off of it.

What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against the Thunder?

A couple of weeks ago, I would be a lot more pessimistic about this game against an elite Western Conference team on the road. But after watching Dallas beat Indiana and Portland with my own eyes, maybe this squad can get something going. The key is defense -- Durant will get his against an aging Marion or Jae "the Beast" Crowder, and that's okay. But it'll be much, much tougher to overcome 25 points from Reggie Jackson or 50 from the bench.

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