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2012 NBA Playoff Predictions: Sporting News Picks Mavericks Over Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder have a hard road ahead, as does any team hopeful for the NBA title, with one formidable opponent after another on their way to the Finals. However, given the Thunder's recent performance and their first round draw, it might be particularly difficult for a stunned team led by Kevin Durant to make it as far as many think. Sean Deveney of the Sporting News is picking an upset in the first round and has the Dallas Mavericks besting the favored Thunder in the end.

He writes, "Oklahoma City has championship aspirations, but before they can get there, they've got to exorcise the demon that has haunted them since last spring-Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who displayed individual brilliance, averaging 32.2 points and twice topping the 40-point mark, in carrying the Mavericks past the Thunder in five games in last year's conference finals. Dallas is limping into the postseason, but there is still enough talent on hand to give the Thunder a good first-round run."

Both teams are not at their functional best, so it could go either direction. If James Harden is ready and available to play, however, it could be the sort of wake-up call the team needed at the right time.