The instant Game 2 ended with a 106-100 loss at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has stressed better defense from his team.
Carlisle and crew went back to the fundamentals.
"We worked on everything — stance, getting up on the ball, bothering them, helping each other out," Mavs reserve point guard J.J. Barea said.
The end result was a 93-87 victory in Game 3 buoyed by a smothering 27-10 start that was just too much for the home team to overcome despite another raucous gather inside Oklahoma City Arena.
Dallas recaptures home-court advantage with the victory and leads 2-1 entering Game 4 on Monday at 8 p.m. in OKC.
OKC started the contest 1 for 7 from the field, went 4 for 17 in the first period and continued to shoot less than 30 percent for the game until 2:51 remained in the third quarter.
"We wanted to make sure they felt our presence out there," said Mavs forward Shawn Marion, who tied for team-high honors with 18 points. "Every time they got a shot, somebody was in their face. That's the defense we've been playing all playoffs."
OKC finished 1 for 17 from 3-point range, with Russell Westbrook making the team's final attempt of the game. That's the worst 3-point performance in the playoffs since the Mavericks went 1 for 18 against Phoenix in 2005.
"They had several opportunities ... and it didn't fall," Mavs sixth man Jason Terry said. "It happens like that in basketball. Good thing we had the lead to hold them off."
The predictably resilient Thunder managed to trim what was once a 23-point lead in the second quarter down to six points with 5:36 still remaining, but the teams played to a 13-13 draw the remainder of the game.
"No lead is safe with this team," Terry said of the Thunder.
The Thunder offense wound up being a lot of one-on-one with little ball movement. OKC finished with just 11 assists, its lowest total since the third game of the season when it had 10 assists in a 120-99 loss at home against Utah.
The Thunder had averaged 109 points and 18 assists the first two games of the series.
"We were much better defensively tonight, and you know, we had to be" Carlisle said. "The first two games were poor. We were very fortunate to win the first game (121-112). But tonight, we played championship-level defense for the first time in the series and now the challenge is to sustain (it)."
Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant finished with 24 points and was 7 for 22 from the field (0 for 8 from 3-point range). Carlisle said the key to defending Durant was giving him little room to roam.
"Durant is a guy you game-plan for in your sleep because he's so great," Carlisle said. "I mean, he is great. I've never seen a guy 6-10, 6-11 that can do the things that he can do on the floor with the basketball, putting the basketball in the hole and the efficiency with which he does it. I mean, it's unprecedented, really.
"And so the first two games, we were allowing him too much space."