David Payne writes for Covers Expert Ben Burns.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks (+2, 192)
Dallas looks like half the team it was during its fantastic 26-8 start.
The Mavericks have been without Dirk Nowitzki for the last five games and now have lost Caron Butler for the season. Nowitzki will miss game No. 6 Thursday, according to ESPNDallas.com.
"He's getting gradually better, but he's not ready to play yet," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told reporters following morning shootaround.
Dallas was already struggling to muster offense without Nowitzki, averaging less than 90 points in the All-Star’s absence. But now with Butler gone, the Mavs biggest offensive weapon is Jason Terry. Yikes.
In contrast, Oklahoma City is healthy with no reported injuries. But good health hasn’t helped in back-to-back losses at San Antonio and Memphis. The Thunder will complete a three-game, six-day road trip with Thursday’s tester against the Mavs.
The Thunder are 5-0-1 ATS in their last six games in Dallas and the underdog in the Oklahoma City-Dallas series is 9-2-1 ATS.
The Mavericks covered as 1.5-point road favorites in a 103-93 win at Oklahoma City on Dec. 27. Nowitzki was injured in the second quarter of that game, but Butler picked up the slack, scoring 21 points in the win.
The Thunder also lost at home to the Mavs, 111-03, on Nov. 24. But this will be a different Dallas team Oklahoma City faces Thursday.
Nowitzki, who is averaging 24 points per game, is out for Thursday’s game. There was some belief that he’d return Tuesday against Portland, but he was held out, giving him a couple more days to rest up his knee. Nowitzki has said he expects to return sometime this week, which means he should be in the lineup Saturday against Orlando. Nowitzki averaged 30 points in splitting four games against the Thunder last season.
Last time out
The Thunder dropped their second straight game Tuesday in a 110-105 loss at Memphis. Oklahoma City has not lost three in a row this season, but will have to find a way to improve its interior play. Memphis outscored the Thunder 54-46 in the paint and had nine more offensive rebounds.
Dallas topped Portland, 84-81, without Nowitzki and Butler Tuesday. Terry overcame a slow start to score 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter of the win. DeShawn Stevenson and Tyson Chandler also stepped up, scoring 18 and 14 points respectively.
Durant vs. the Mavs
Durant averaged 30 points, eight rebounds and 4.5 assists in two losses against Dallas this season. For his career, he’s averaging right at 20 points and eight boards against the Mavs.
With Nowitzki and Butler in the lineup, oddsmakers set the total for the last Thunder-Mavs meeting at 200.5 points. The Mavs’ 103-93 win was only the second time in the last eight meetings that the teams failed to eclipse the total.
The Mavericks are averaging 97.9 and allowing 93.2 points per game, but are scoring just over 84 points per game in Nowitzki’s absence.
The Thunder are scoring 103 points a night and allowing 101.4 per game.