Welcome back to basketball, everyone!
So what happened over the All-Star break?
Dirk played in the All-Star game and was so amazing he made even Tim Duncan smile. The New York Knicks bought out Amar'e Stoudemire's contract, and the veteran center will suit up as the newest member of the Dallas Mavericks. Rajon Rondo has recovered from his orbital and nasal fractures and will return to the lineup for tonight's game against the Thunder. Speaking of...
What have the Thunder done lately?
The Thunder went into All-Star weekend on a three-game winning streak, having won six of their last 10 and climbed within half a game of eighth-seed Phoenix. Although Durant recently missed four games with a sprained toe and some general soreness in his foot (the same one that caused him to miss the first month of the regular season), he played 10 minutes in the All-Star game on Sunday and says he's feeling better now.
The Thunder's injury woes aren't over, though. Before the All-Star break, rookie big man Mitch McGary made his well-timed debut against the LA Clippers in a blow-out Thunder victory. McGary notched a double-double in his 23 minutes in LA and managed to do the same against the Nuggets. And although he flamed out a bit in his third NBA game against the Grizzlies, the Thunder will need him to step up in Steven Adams' absence. The second-year center left the Clippers game after breaking his right hand and is expected to miss a few weeks following surgery to repair it.
Who on the Thunder may be due for a big game?
The Mavericks won their last game against the Thunder back in December. This was probably in part due to Durant's absence, but Dallas also managed to hold Russell Westbrook to 6-23 from the field. This helped the Mavs eek out a victory in a close game that saw the Thunder hold court in the paint with Tyson Chandler out.
But while Dallas will probably have Tyson Chandler for this one (he injured his ankle on February 8 against the Clippers, but is expected to play tonight) and Rajon Rondo is expected to return, it's unclear whether either player's anticipated return will come with any minutes restrictions. If Tyson and/or Rondo are not able to play much, it's a little scary to think about what Westbrook may be capable of doing in the absence of a strong defender.
What team stat may determine the game?
Although the Mavericks came out on top in December, the Thunder actually out-shot them from in terms of efficiency. But Dallas was able to get up more than double the number of three-point attempts and hit them at a decent if not stellar rate. OKC very much missed Durant's six three-point attempts per game and greater than 50 percent accuracy rate while he was out, so while their big-man lineup may be a bit depleted, they could be poised to take advantage of Rondo's absence on the perimeter if the Mavs' starting point guard isn't 100 percent.
Tonight's game is at 7:00pm Central on TNT.