Game One at American Airlines Center was a magical one.
Two superstars, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant, had an epic duel, with Nowitzki coming out on top after playing nearly flawless basketball.
He shot an outstanding 12-of-15 from the field and tied a playoff record for most consecutive free throws in a quarter by shooting 13-for-13 in the third quarter, and shot an overall 24-for-24 from the line, also a record. Nowitzki finished with 48 points.
How the Thunder responds after the jaw-dropping effort from Nowitzki will be the main storyline gong into tonight Game Two as the Mavericks and Thunder meet once more in Dallas.
Containing Nowitzki will be a major issue for the Thunder, but the club also has two important players looking to bounce back from sub-par performances.
Russell Westbrook finished with 20 points, but shot a poor three-for-15 from the field. The young guard also had more turnovers (four), than assists (three.)
Kendrick Perkins avoided foul trouble, but only had five rebounds and didn't record a block shot in 28 minutes.
Head coach Scott Brooks will need a better effort from his two starters, because Durant can't be expected to carry the load like he did in Game One.
As for the Mavericks, Rick Carlisle received better-than-expected efforts from Nowitzki and point guard J.J. Barea.
Nowitzki is among the best shooters of the past decade, but he may have had the best game of his life in Game One. Serge Ibaka played excellent defense on the seven-footer, yet the shots kept dropping for Nowitzki, and so did his free throws. It would be surprising if Nowitzki matched such an effort in Game Two.
Barea has shown flashes of brilliance all season so his eight-for-12 shooting night shouldn't be too much of a surprise. But having back-to-back games after his Game One performance might not be in the cards, either.
Brooks took a chance and put seldom-used Nate Robinson in the game to guard Barea, but that experiment failed. Brooks will probably avoid that substitution in Game Two, and take his chances with Eric Maynor guarding the speedy Barea.
What Oklahoma City will certainly have going for them in Game Two is motivation. The Thunder went into this season after taking the NBA Champion Lakers to six games last season as the dark horse candidate to come out of the West this year.
It would be a major disappointment to go down 2-0 in the series to the Mavericks.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma City gets a much better performance from Westbrook, and Nowitzki has another big game but nowhere nearly as good as Game One. Durant also gets slowed down a bit, but the player who unexpectedly steps up for the Thunder is reserve Nick Collison. Dallas stays ahead for most of the game, but the Thunder pull away in the fourth quarter.
SCORE PREDICTION: Oklahoma City 105, Dallas 101.