DALLAS -- Don't hit the panic button, Thunder fans.
I know you're tempted.
Heck, I know some of you have already sounded the alarm.
No doubt the Mavs took it to your beloved Thunder in the opening game of the Western Conference Finals. On a night when pundits agreed the Thunder had its best chance to steal a road game, the Mavs instead opened up a big lead in the first half and kept pouring it on in the second half, courtesy of a record night by Dirk Nowitzki.
Mavericks 121, Thunder 112.
But this series is not over.
Read that sentence again, Thunder fans. Breathe. Repeat.
There is still a lot of basketball to be played. Five or six more games, if I had to guess.
Don't believe me?
Then, believe Kevin Durant.
“It's a series,” the Thunder superstar said. “You don't win a series on just one game.”
Don't lose it on just one game either.
Yes, plenty went wrong for the Thunder. Yes, much has to change before Game 2 on Thursday night. But this is just the opening salvo.
Remember, too, it took a career night from Nowitzki to take control of this game. The big guy was marvelous — 48 points, 12 of 15 field goals and a playoff record 24 of 24 free throws. Shooting 39 times and missing only three of those shots is almost incomprehensible.
Even though he got some great looks Tuesday night, he also made a bunch of shots with a hand in his grill.
“I thought Dirk was pretty good,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks deadpanned.
He cracked a smile because he'd tried everything else against Nowitzki.
“He made some tough shots,” Brooks said. “He's one of the best I've ever seen at that position offensively. A lot of shots you don't think he has a chance of making it, but he does.”
What's Dirk going to do, set an NBA record every game in this series?
Well, I guess he could, but I seriously doubt it.
Consider this — even when Nowitzki did go off Tuesday night and Russell Westbrook hit only 3 of 15 shots and Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and anyone else who tried to guard Dirk got into foul trouble, the Thunder still made a game of it in the fourth quarter.
They were down only five points with a little under four minutes left in the game, and when a Shawn Marion shot hung on the rim, you thought things were about to get really interesting.
But when the shot eventually fell off the cylinder, Marion was there to tip it back in.
“We played well offensively,” Brooks said. “We can't complain about 112 points on the board, but defensively, we have to get better.”
Here's guessing the Thunder will not only throw a few wrinkles at Nowitzki but also do a better job on role players like J.J. Barea. For starters, Nate Robinson won't be guarding him or anyone else again.
The Thunder was far from perfect on this opening night of the series, and yet, it kept this game competitive until the final minutes. That fact wasn't lost on Rick Carlisle.
“Look, we're going to have to play better,” the Dallas coach said. “Westbrook had a very, very subpar game for him. I thought we did some good things against him, but I also thought he just had an off game.
“We had a lot of loose possessions out there at both ends that we're going to have to clean up.”
Remember, Thunder fans, your team lost the opening game in the last round, too. A bunch of you thought that series was over, and look how that turned out.
Losing a playoff game at home, by the way, is much worse than losing on the road.
Remember, too, that the Mavs have been known to play good for stretches, then fall to pieces.
See, Dallas circa 2006.
That team was a quarter from a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, and it ended up losing the series in six games. That series wasn't over after one game.
This one isn't either.
“It's a long series,” Durant said. “We've got to keep pushing.”
He isn't talking about the panic button, Thunder fans.