After missing the playoffs last season — largely due to Kevin Durant’s absence — the Thunder are back in the playoffs. There were times in the season where they looked ready to challenge the Warriors and Spurs for elite status, and times they seemed to have shifted to cruise control (like in their 5-5 finish during the season’s last 10 games).

The Mavericks were a disappointment for much of the season, hovering at or below the .500 mark. 

MORE: Full playoff predictions: How many do Warriors drop?

They got things going down the stretch, finishing 7-3 over the final 10 games to claim a playoff spot and avoid the Warriors and Spurs in the first round.

Thunder vs. Mavericks matchup to watch

Mavericks point guards vs. Russell Westbrook

Deron Williams and J.J. Barea make a great 1-2 punch at point guard for the Mavericks. The problem is, both have been banged up the last month or so. And they have to deal with human triple-double machine Russell Westbrook, which is tough enough even at 100 percent.

Thunder vs. Mavericks regular season series

Thunder 4-0: Thunder 117-114, Thunder 108-89, Thunder 109-106, Thunder 116-103

Thunder vs. Mavericks schedule

Game 1: April 16 — Mavericks at Thunder, 9:30 P.M.  EST (ESPN)
Game 2: April 18 — Mavericks at Thunder, 8:00 P.M. EST (TNT)
Game 3: April 21 — Thunder at Mavericks, 7:00 P.M. EST (TNT)
Game 4: April 23 — Thunder at Mavericks, 8:00 P.M. EST (ESPN)
Game 5: April 25 — Mavericks at Thunder (if necessary)
Game 6: April 28 — Thunder at Mavericks (if necessary)
Game 7: April 30 — Mavericks at Thunder (TNT, if necessary)

Thunder vs. Mavericks prediction

The only way the Mavs have a chance is if the Thunder forget how

to win in the playoffs. Look for Kevin Durant to have his way against the Mavs defense during this series.

Thunder in five.