Mavericks-Thunder Preview

The Associated Press

There's a strong possibility that Oklahoma City and Dallas could meet in the first round of the playoffs.

That likely would be just fine with the Thunder.

Oklahoma City seeks its 12th consecutive win in the series when it hosts the Mavericks on Sunday night.

The Thunder (48-17) have split their last 10 games to fall one behind San Antonio, which has won nine straight, for home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. They've followed back-to-back road losses by winning two straight at home, including Thursday's 131-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kevin Durant scored 29 points despite being in foul trouble, and Russell Westbrook also finished with 29 to go along with nine assists as Oklahoma City won its fifth straight home contest.

"It's real fun, especially when we win," said Westbrook, averaging 27.3 points over his last four. "As long as we continue to do a good job of playing together and everybody gets in a good groove, I think we'll be all right."

That's certainly been the case against the Mavericks recently. Oklahoma City never trailed in the second half of a 107-93 home win over Dallas on Nov. 6 in the teams' lone matchup this season. That extended the Thunder's series winning streak to 11, which includes a first-round sweep in the 2012 playoffs.

Serge Ibaka had 17 points and 13 assists in the most recent meeting, and he finished with 15 points and 13 boards Thursday for his third straight double-double. He's averaged 14.6 rebounds in that span and has 11 blocked shots over the last two.

"Serge has really been good. He's having a good year," coach Scott Brooks told the team's official website. "This is a stretch where we're seeing more growth. He's chasing down shots, altering and blocking them. He's getting rebounds, spotting up and driving. He's really picked up his game. He's very efficient."

Following this contest, Dallas begins a crucial eight-game homestand that includes a rematch with the Thunder on March 25. The Mavericks (39-27), who have won three of four, are in a tight battle with Memphis and Phoenix for one of the final two playoff spots in the West.

Dirk Nowitzki moved into 12th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list after netting 31 points in Wednesday's 108-101 win over Utah. He hit 12 of 14 from the field and all four of his 3-point attempts after shooting 7 for 25 overall and totaling 26 points over his previous two.

"I was determined to set a more aggressive tone," Nowitzki said. "I haven't been quite on fire lately, but I got out early and was really looking to get my groove."

A three-day break since that win gave Dallas a chance to heal up.

Forward Jae Crowder has missed the last two games with a strained abdominal muscle but said he hopes to play against the Thunder. Guard Devin Harris has been battling a strained Achilles, though he scored 12 points Wednesday despite being a game-time decision.

"Whatever the schedule is, we have to maximize it. (The break) for us I'm going to say comes at a good time," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We've got a couple of guys that are nursing some minor aches and pains, and we want to get those things resolved. And they're good work days, so it's work and prep, because we've got a bunch of games coming up starting on Sunday."

Nowitzki has been held to 11.7 points per game on 11-of-34 shooting in his last three visits to Oklahoma City, where the Mavs have lost seven straight - including the playoffs.

Durant has averaged 33.0 points in five meetings since the start of last season, and the Thunder have scored at least 107 in each.

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