Thunder ready to eliminate Mavericks?

Thunder ready to eliminate Mavericks?

The Mavericks likely won’t survive the Western Conference quarterfinals. Still, nobody can criticize the ferocity with which they’ve battled the third-seeded Thunder.

Rick Carlisle’s crew will try to tap into those energy reserves one more time tonight in Game 5, with an 8 p.m. ET tip at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oddsmakers at online sports book BetDSI question, frankly, how much remains in the tank. Dallas is listed as a 14.5-point underdog in this must-win situation.

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Oklahoma City assumed a 3-1 series lead by prevailing over the weekend, but that 119-108 victory in the Lone Star State did not come without incident. The Mavs’ battered and bruised roster banded together to irritate Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook immensely. Durant received a $15,000 fine for committing a flagrant foul in the final minute of the contest, while Westbrook’s outburst directed at those in the stands incurred a $25,000 penalty.

All transgressions stand to be forgotten, of course, if Billy Donovan’s bunch simply takes care of business at home. Westbrook should take note of the fashion in which OKC moved the ball in D-Town. The Thunder totaled 54 assists over the eight quarters of action there, receiving unexpected offensive contributions from role players such as Enes Kanter (shooting 73 percent in the first round), Serge Ibaka (71.4) and Steven Adams (61.9).

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Dallas has leaned heavily on stalwart veteran Dirk Nowitzki. Nonetheless, one wonders if he’s physically capable of matching Saturday’s 27-point outburst at this stage. The reinforcements just aren’t there, and Oklahoma City wants as much rest as possible before tussling with San Antonio next.

MONDAY NBA FREE PICK: THUNDER -14.5

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