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Give Points In Mavericks-Thunder Game To Kick Off NBA's Second Half
The NBA's extra-long All-Star Break, which was requested by the players, is finally over on Thursday night and the first of two games on the TNT doubleheader is in Oklahoma City when the Thunder host the Mavericks. OKC is a 5-point favorite on Sporstbook.ag with a total of 211.5.
Mavs Get Back Rondo
Dallas will be get some reinforcements for this game. The first is point guard Rajon Rondo, the team's big trade acquisition from Boston. Rondo missed the last six games before the break due to nasal and left orbital bone fractures suffered Jan. 31 when he was inadvertently kneed in the face by teammate Richard Jefferson. The team was fortunate that surgery wasn't needed or Rondo would have missed several weeks. Rondo has averaged 9.2 points, 6.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds in 21 games with Dallas. Not quite the numbers that the Mavs were hoping for. Center Tyson Chandler, who missed the final game before the All-Star break due to a sprained left ankle, also should play.
When the Mavs got Rondo, they did so by giving up blossoming young big man Brandan Wright (and a few other pieces). That left a gaping hole on the roster as a backup to Chandler and occasionally Dirk Nowitzki at power forward. That problem appears to have been solved as the team has signed Amare Stoudemire. He became a free agent Wednesday after clearing waivers. He was bought out by the Knicks this week. The Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns were among the playoff contenders that expressed interest in Stoudemire, a six-time All-Star who averaged 12 points and 6.8 rebounds in 36 games this season.
Amare Nice Addition
Dallas was attractive to Stoudemire in part because of a pick-and-roll-intensive offense that plays to his strengths. His per-36 minutes average of 18.8 points and 10.2 rebounds are considerably better than what the Mavericks frontcourt reserves have provided this season (13.6 and 7.2 per 36 minutes combined respectively). Dallas' bench was shooting a league-high 49.5 percent from the floor prior to the Rondo trade that also cost reserves Jameer Nelson and Jae Crowder. That percentage has dropped to 41.8 since, 25th in the league over that time.
Oklahoma City enters the second half a half-game behind Phoenix for the No. 8 spot in the West but on a three-game winning streak. In their final game before the break, the Thunder claimed a 16-point victory over the Memphis Grizzlies to move three games above .500 for the first time this season. In the three games prior to the All-Star break, OKC averaged 120.0 points per game on 50.2% shooting. In the last 38 games (in which OKC has gone 25-13), the Thunder are averaging 105.1 points on 45.4 percent shooting.
The Mavericks have taken the last three regular-season meetings with the Thunder after OKC won the previous seven meetings between the two teams. Dallas won the only matchup this season, 112-107 at home on Dec. 28. Nowitzki started at center for Dallas because Chandler was out and tallied a game-high 30 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. Durant missed that game.
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Two unbeatens enter the octagon on Sept. 26 at UFC 253 with the UFC world middleweight championship belt on the line. Israel Adesanya (19-0) puts his title up for grabs against Brazilian Paulo Costa, who is 13-0. The Nigerian-born Adesanya, who fights out of New Zealand, holds a height (1.93m-1.85m) and a reach (203.2-182.9) advantage over Costa. In terms of age, Costa, 29, is two years younger than Adesanya, 31.