Rick Carlisle: Mavs kept fighting in Game 3

DALLAS – The Mavericks insist that they didn’t mail it in when things went haywire in Game 3.

They claim that effort wasn’t an issue in the lopsided loss that put the Mavs in danger of becoming just the fifth defending champion in NBA history to fail to win a playoff game the next season.

The Mavs say they were just that bad Thursday night. And the Thunder was that good.

“Hey, listen, we fought the whole way,” said coach Rick Carlisle, the lone member of the Mavs to address the media Friday. “We fought last night and didn’t play well. You tip your hat to them and we’ve got to defend our court in Game 4 and get back on the plane.”

That echoes the opinions voiced by players after the Mavs set an unfortunate, if obscure, NBA record: largest margin of defeat by a team playing in its first home playoff game in defense of an NBA championship, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“We tried, but you’ve got to give them credit,” Dirk Nowitzki said Thursday night. “Every time we made a little push, they made shots.”

Nowitzki talked about the importance of just getting a win, for pride’s sake. He certainly didn’t sound like a superstar who believed his team had any chance to become the first team in NBA history to overcome an 0-3 deficit to win a series. He acknowledged that the Mavs took a step back this season, the sort of comment that usually waits until exit interviews.

But Carlisle claims that the Mavs’ belief in themselves remains strong. He insists that all hope isn’t lost despite the 0-99 record of teams that lose the first three games of best-of-7 NBA playoff series.

“Somebody’s going to do it. It’s going to happen,” Carlisle said. “The thing is, to get to that point, we’ve got to focus on tomorrow’s game. We’ve got to focus on the first quarter, the first six minutes and work it whistle to whistle. That’s the way it’s going to happen.

“We still have a lot of belief in ourselves and what we’re doing. We’re going to keep fighting.”