|The Mavs got whipped in Game 3, but the first two games loom largest. (Getty Images)|
The Mavs missed their chance.
It's as simple as that. They had a shot to give the Thunder a run, and they missed it. Twice. Forget Thursday's 95-79 beatdown at home. Sure, Dallas could've salvaged something and made it appear this was going to be a series. But really, it was over when Jason Terry's second desperation 3 clanged off the iron in Game 2.
Once, Kevin Durant took it from them with a gift from above that bounced around and took Game 1 out from under the Mavs. The other, Dallas just couldn't find a way to close and lost a tight one. Both games presented the Mavs an open opportunity to steal a game. The door was as open as it probably would ever be. Durant went 15-of-44 from the floor in those first two games, Dirk had a dagger opportunity in Game 2 and in each game, there were moments that things just didn't break the Mavs way.
Eventually, the Thunder tidal wave was coming. You just can't expect to hold down the sheer talent of that team for long. Between Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka, there simply isn't a hope for holding their heads down consistently. The breakout was on its way. It appeared the Thunder were headed for it in Game 2, building a 16-point second quarter lead. But the Mavs clawed back.
In Game 3, Oklahoma City built a 28-13 first quarter lead, but the Mavs cut it to six by the end of the frame. The Thunder went up 15 in the second, but Dallas got it to nine by the break. They came out of the locker room with the first four points of the third and had the lead for just five, primed to make it a game. But that's when the Thunder poured it on, finally shedding the shackles and blowing the doors open on not just Game 3, but the series.
Durant went 11-of-15 for 31 points. Westbrook cooked in the third quarter, taking over as the Thunder pushed ahead. OKC's bench produced as Derek Fisher and Daequan Cook went 5-10 from 3. That type of outburst was expected at some point, because there's simply too much talent on that Thunder roster to expect it to struggle for long. When all the pieces click, they're as good as anyone.
The Mavs were battling uphill before they even took the floor Thursday night. The missed opportunities in the first two contests hung over theirs heads like a dark cloud. They were always overmatched in this series but behind the power of Dirk and the big stones of Jet Terry, there was a chance.
It's not over of course and if there's a team that has the mental fortitude and pride to make something out of this, it's the Mavs. But they can't win four at once. It's one at a time, and with the way this series has gone, it has to feel like that's going to be quite the chore. The Thunder presented Dallas a chance, and then another chance in the first two games. And in Game 3, showed how dangerous they are when they're fully operational.
The Mavs have let the beast out of its cage and while it can of course be tamed, it's probably too late.