DALLAS (AP) - Dirk Nowitzki leaned back in the chair at the podium, trying to explain what went wrong for the Dallas Mavericks once they got home for the playoffs.
There was really only one way to put it after they trailed throughout in a 95-79 loss Thursday night that gave the Oklahoma City Thunder a commanding 3-0 series lead.
``We picked a bad time to put a stinker out there,' Nowitzki said.
After losing the first two games on the road by a combined four points, the defending NBA champions were Thunderstruck by Kevin Durant and young Oklahoma City.
Durant finally found his postseason shooting touch, scoring 15 of his 31 points in the first quarter.
After shooting a combined 15 for 44 in the first two games, though he did have the game-winning jumper with 1.5 seconds left in the series opener, the three-time NBA scoring champ made 11 of 15 shots in Game 3. Even when he missed the game's first shot, Serge Ibaka converted a putback to put Oklahoma City ahead to stay.
The Thunder get their first chance to close out the series with Game 4 on Saturday night in Dallas.
``We know we haven't done anything yet,' Durant said.
While they haven't won the series yet, the Thunder have put Dallas in an 0-3 hole that no NBA team has ever overcome to win a series.
That means a nearly impossible climb for the Mavs to avoid being the first defending champion knocked out in the first round of the playoffs since Miami five years ago. After beating Dallas in the 2006 NBA finals, the Heat were swept in four games by Chicago in the opening round the next season.
``We've got to win A game, `' Nowitzki said, emphasizing the singular focus. ``You've got to show some pride on Saturday and just play a better game.'
Nowitzki had 17 points and Jason Kidd 12 for Dallas, which shot only 34 percent (26 of 76).
Russell Westbrook added 20 points for Oklahoma City while Ibaka had 10 points and 11 rebounds. James Harden and Derek Fisher both had 10 points.
Oklahoma City led 16-7 less than 5 minutes into Game 3 after Durant's alley-oop pass to Ibaka for a layup. The Thunder pushed further ahead with 16-5 runs in both the second and third quarters, the later spurt clinching the game.
Dallas was within five after when Ian Mahinmi had a slam dunk and Jason Kidd drove for a layup in the opening minute of the third quarter before Durant missed a turnaround jumper.
But the Thunder then went on their second 16-5 run, pushing back ahead 66-50 on Thabo Sefolosha's 3-pointer.
The Mavericks never got closer than 11 points after that, finishing the third quarter only 4-of-18 shooting with four turnovers.
``We never recovered from that,' coach Rick Carlisle said. ``Our third quarter was up and down. We had a good start, then they came back at us and hit shots and made plays. ... They threw a great game at us. We needed to be a lot better than we were.'
Carlisle and the Mavericks were frustrated long before that.
When Kendrick Perkins had a tip-in of Harden's miss with 4 minutes left in the first quarter, Carlisle was so irate that the field goal wasn't disallowed for basket interference that he had to be restrained by one of his assistant coaches.
Carlisle charged onto the court screaming and pointing at official Marc Davis. Replays showed Carlisle might have had a good argument, but he got called for a technical foul and Westbrook's free throw put the Thunder up 21-11, their first double-digit lead.
``There's been frustration with officials, but we're not going to make it about officials,' Carlisle said.
Durant's third 3 later in the first quarter made it 28-13.
Dallas got to 32-28 after Vince Carter scored seven points in the final 1:34 of the first quarter and Delonte West started the second with two free throws. The Thunder then had their first 16-5 run, that spurt ending with consecutive 3s by Fisher and Westbrook for a 48-33 lead.
Harden made a cross-court pass to Fisher in the left corner in front of the Oklahoma City bench. Then after a wide-open Shawn Marion fumbled the ball out of bounds under the Dallas basket, Westbrook hit his 3 from near the same spot.
``This might have been one of the best games of the year,' Westbrook said. ``Especially on the road and the type game it was.'
For the Mavericks, it might have been one of the worst.
``We've got to circle the wagons,' Carlisle said. ``We've got to the get the wheels back on the wagon.'
NOTES: Harden was added earlier Thursday to the list of finalists for the 2012 USA Basketball National Team. Thunder teammates Durant and Westbrook are also finalists for the 12-man U.S. Olympic team roster that will be announced later this year. ... Dallas was assessed four technical fouls. Like Carlisle, Nowitzki got called for one in the first quarter. West got one in the third quarter when he reached out and grabbed the wrist of official Greg Willard when questioning a call. There was a double technical early in the fourth against Brian Cardinal and Durant.
The Associated Press News Service
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