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While the match-up may be unexpected, that won’t stop the Western Conference Finals from starting tonight when Oklahoma City Thunder take on the Dallas Mavericks in their best-of-seven series. Granted, the absence of teams like the LA Lakers and San Antonio Spurs may be shocking to some, but these clearly are the two best teams playing currently for the Western Conference.

Sure, the Lakers might have had Phil, Kobe and Pau, but a lot of good that did while being unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the Mavericks.

Like it or not, these two teams are your Western Conference representatives, so with that, let’s take a look at the match up that should make this series a great one to watch: Kevin Durant versus Dirk Nowitzki. Now, before the scoffing begins, it is understood that basketball is a team sport and the success of each team’s bench will play a large part on who goes to the NBA Finals.

Be that as it may, the marquee players in this series are Dirk and Durant, two of the best scorers the league has ever seen. While these two will spend the majority of their 48 minutes guarding other players, as the lead image shows, there will be times these two go directly at each other. So who has the advantage?

A quick look at some charts on StatSheet.com’s StatPlot service sees both players are pretty evenly matched in reference to statistically benefiting their respective teams. Unfortunately, StatSheet.com is having some difficulty with their embed feature, so start here. You’ll see there isn’t much of an advantage, either way.

Over at the Painted Area, there’s a good post discussing who on the Oklahoma City Thunder will have the luxury of guarding Nowitzki, and let’s just say expect to see a lot of Serge Ibka on the German assassin. Will such an approach work for the Thunder? It’s hard to be optimistic. If Ibka does get the call, I would expect Nowitzki to absolutely abuse him until the double teams come.

As for the Mavericks, is Shawn Marion the one who will be guarding Durant? If so, it’s hard to expect much success. In three games against the Mavericks this season, Durant averaged right around 30 points a game, while shooting a total of 27 free throws. As for Dirk, in two games against the Thunder, he scored 47 points and got to the line 19 times.

So yeah, like I was saying, it’s essentially a push. Durant is younger, but Dirk has all the playoff experience you could ask for. While the series will be decided by which player has the most help, watching these two scoring machines will be a true treat for basketball fans. Essentially, it’s a match-up of small forwards who have no business being perimeter players.

I mean, how in the world do you stop either of these shots?

I’m not sure you can, and that’s what makes it such a potentially enjoyable match up.