DALLAS _ No way are the Dallas Mavericks overlooking the Oklahoma City Thunder and looking ahead to a showdown in the NBA Finals against Miami or Chicago.
Although Dallas rallied from a 15-point deficit with 5:06 remaining in the fourth quarter to stun the Thunder, 112-105 in overtime on Monday, the Mavs know they were precariously close to this best-of-seven Western Conference Finals being tied at 2-2.
That’s why the Mavs want to go ahead and close out this series when they entertain OKC at 8 p.m. Wednesday at American Airlines Center. The Mavs want to keep the Thunder down while their licking their wounds after a very frustrating loss in Game 4.
“They played an incredible game -- you’ve got to give them all the credit in the world,’’ center Tyson Chandler said. “They came out (Monday) and they wanted this win and they played like they wanted it.
“We were just fortunate to hang in there and keep ourselves close and then at the right time we were able to bite them. But we’re not taking anything for granted. We still have to keep the same focus that we came in with in the series and we’ve got to try to finish it.’’
And if the Mavs don’t finish off the Thunder on Wednesday, they’ll have to hop on the team plane and try to win a Game 6 in Oklahoma City on Friday.
“I know they’re going to come in here (Wednesday) night and they’re going to come at us hard,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “We have to play our best game to close them out.’’
The Mavs certainly do a much better job on the boards than they did in Game 4, when OKC outrebounded them by an embarrassing 55-33 margin. That includes having five players grab at least seven rebounds apiece.
“We’re getting outrebounded by an average of eight in this series and that’s a big concern,’’ Carlisle said. “(Monday) night, down 15 late and try to keep playing, try to hang around and get some momentum.
“And we did and it was obviously a great result for us.’’
The Mavs, though, don’t want to bank on a 17-2 run in the waning minutes to win games. They know that’s a recipe for disaster.
“I’m not saying that’s how we want to play going forward, but knowing we were able to do that, we kind of knew we had that in us,’’ guard Jason Terry said. “It’s a test of mental toughness.
“They’ve been questioning us since ’06 about our mental toughness. It’s been a process, it’s been steady growth, steady progress, and I think this is the toughest we’ve been mentally and we’re showing it in this postseason.’’
And showing it in a big way. Just ask the Thunder.
“We just tried to withstand the storm,’’ center Brendan Haywood said of Game 4. “We knew we were going to come out and we’d get the best they had.
“And they really gave us a quick shot in the mouth. But we were able to stay in it all game and come back down the stretch.’’
Game 4 tested the Mavs’ willpower to the hilt. It also tested their intestinal fortitude.
“We were resilient,’’ forward Shawn Marion. “We did what we had to do out there.
“We were hungry, we wanted it, we just kept fighting and fighting and got over that hump. We just kept believing and kept playing hard and stuck together and it turned around and good things happened.’’
Even had the Mavs lost Game 4, they still knew they had homecourt advantage going forward.
“We’re even-keel,’’ Terry said. “We’re always confident.
“It wasn’t like we were going to waver if we lost.’’
The Mavs also aren’t making any plans for the Finals because the Thunder came to Dallas and beat them in Game 2 of this series, 106-100.
“We came out and they kicked the (expletive delete) out of us from start to finish,’’ Carlisle said. “That was again because were unable to keep them in front of us, we gave them too much air space, too much room to operate.
“Game 3 was the best game we played defense from start to finish. That’s what we have to get back to (in order) to win (Wednesday).’’
-- Dwain Price
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