The Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder tip off their Western Conference Finals series tonight. Here are the burning questions that will determine the outcome of this pretty even matchup.
1. How will rest (or lack of it) affect this series?
The Mavs were at the top of their game in Round 2 against the Lakers. They've had eight days off since their sweep of L.A. The question is, will the rest be good for Dallas's veteran players or will it cause them to lose momentum?
On the flip side, Oklahoma City is coming off a grueling seven-game series against the Memphis Grizzlies that ended on Sunday. The Thunder is a young team, but none of its players are used to playing this deep into the postseason.
2. How will the point guard matchup shape up?
Kidd has looked good in the first two rounds, but he has had manageable matchups on defense. Now he will face the super athletic Russell Westbrook, which could spell trouble. Westbrook has been criticized for shooting too much in the postseason, but he will have to look for his shot when defended by the older, slower Kidd.
EDGE: Oklahoma City
3. Which superstar will come out on top?
Kevin Durant's overall postseason stats look good (28.9 points per game), but he had some mediocre performances against the Grizzlies. The Thunder has a favorable matchup with Russell Westbrook against Jason Kidd, so Durant may not get the ball as much as usual.
Dirk Nowitzki has been playing like a man on a mission. He knows that this spring may be his best chance at winning an NBA ring. Nowitzki has been dominant, both in the post and on the perimeter, and has stepped up huge in crunchtime. His urgency to win now will make him the brightest star in this series.
Series Prediction: Mavs in 6.