Mavericks not counting Lakers out

DALLAS -- No team in NBA history has ever battled back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series, but that doesn't matter to the Dallas Mavericks.

They're prepared for a heck of a fight from the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

"We're not thinking that we've won three games and can walk over these guys," Mavericks guard Jason Terry said after Friday's 98-92 win that put the Lakers on the brink of being swept. "They're the champions. You've got to knock the champ out in boxing and in basketball."

Added Dirk Nowitzki, who continued his dominance of the Lakers with a 32-point performance: "They have a lot of pride over there in that locker room, and we've got to go take it. They're not gonna give it to us."

The Lakers continued to express confidence that they could rally to eliminate the Mavericks in this Western Conference semifinals series. That would make L.A. the first of 99 teams to do so after digging a hole this deep.

"I might be sick in the head or crazy, because I still think we're going to win this series," Lakers star Kobe Bryant said after being limited to 17 points in Game 3, when he went scoreless for the final 4:33. "I might be nuts."

The Mavericks have too much respect for a franchise that has won five titles in the past 11 seasons to assume a series win over the Lakers, much less question their opponent's mental state.

The Lakers point out all the mistakes they've made, particularly while being outscored by 27 points in fourth quarters this series. The Mavericks have no problem with that point of view.

"We've been fortunate to get this 3-0 lead," Dallas center Tyson Chandler said. "Until it's 4-0, I'm not going to count them out.

"I don't want to put any words in their mouths. I'm not sure how they're feeling right now. I just know how we're feeling. We feel like we've got to seize the moment. We've got a great opportunity, and we've got to close it."

The Mavericks have been on the wrong end of one of the most memorable NBA playoff collapses. After taking a 2-0 lead over the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals, the Mavs lost four consecutive games, causing parade plans that had been announced by the city of Dallas to be cancelled.

But their refusal to celebrate such a commanding lead in this series has nothing to do with that history. Nowitzki and Terry are the only players from that Finals team who remain on the Dallas roster.

It's simply a matter of the Mavs' refusing to get ahead of themselves before a difficult job is completely done.

"We're not looking at 3-0," said Dallas point guard Jason Kidd, who has played excellent defense on Bryant down the stretch of the Mavs' two close wins. "We're looking at Sunday and we've got to come out and fight. We know these guys have won two [championships] in a row and they're not just going to walk out and say, 'Here, we're done.' They're going to fight."

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.