OKLAHOMA CITY – It takes a lot more than one good punch to knock out a champion.
Make no mistake, this one hurt the Mavericks. They had Game 1 stolen on the road, leading by seven points with three minutes remaining, before they let it slip away. Or before the Thunder seized the game, depending on one’s perspective.
Either way, Dallas is dealing with a 1-0 series deficit after Kevin Durant’s game-winning 15-footer bounced in the bucket. How will the Mavs respond?
“We’re going to keep coming at these guys,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Trust me, we’re going to keep coming at them.
“We have a tough-minded team. We have a locker room full of champions and these guys have big heart. We put ourselves in a strong position tonight and we didn’t get it done. It’s on us. It’s on us. But we will not be deterred. We’re going to keep coming back at these guys. That’s what we have to do.”
The Mavs came back strong after every tough loss during their title run last year.
They didn’t let a historic collapse in the Rose Garden linger after the blew a 23-point lead in the second half against the Trail Blazers, evening the first-round series after four games. That was Portland’s last win of the series.
They answered Oklahoma City’s Game 2 win at the American Airlines Center by winning the final three games of the West finals.
They twice trailed in the NBA Finals, losing Games 1 and 3 to the Heat, but were celebrating at Miami Beach’s Club Liv after Game 6.
Granted, some key members of that team departed Dallas after the lockout, including emotional leader Tyson Chandler. But the majority of the Mavs’ rotation owns a championship ring, and newcomers Delonte West and Vince Carter have significant playoff experience.
“If a team can recover from it,” Dirk Nowitzki said of such a disappointing loss, “it’s an experienced one.”