OKLAHOMA CITY -- Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has noticed a distinct trend developing in the Western Conference finals.
"The team that wins gets their ass kicked the next game," Carlisle said before the Mavs' shootaround Monday morning. "Really, that's what's happened."
That's a trend the Mavericks intend to end in Game 4 at Oklahoma City Arena.
The Mavericks have a 2-1 lead in the series after responding to a Game 2 home loss with by far its best defensive performance of the series in Saturday's 93-87 road win. Carlisle said the Mavs must keep the same nasty disposition despite coming off a win.
"We've got to concentrate and we've got to be ready for what's coming at us tonight, which is going to be a lot of force," Carlisle said. "They're going to play a desperate game, for sure. For 48 minutes, we've got to bring a level of intensity."
Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant, who had a poor shooting performance in Game 3, was uncharacteristically short with reporters after the Thunder's Sunday practice. Durant, who is typically extraordinarily polite and cheerful, acknowledged that he was angrier than he's been after other losses.
"We have to be the first hitter," said Durant, who was 7-of-22 from the floor and 0-of-8 from 3-point range in Game 3. "We have to come out aggressive, no matter what. And that starts with me."
The Mavs fully anticipate Durant and the young Thunder to play with an edge, and Dallas is determined to match that intensity.
"They'll be fired up, but so will we," Dallas sixth man Jason Terry said. "This is where you can really show your veteranship, your mental toughness, by coming out [strong]. You know how they've responded to adversity throughout these playoffs. But, for us, it's about finally seizing the moment and taking control of this series."
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.