DALLAS — As an All-Star point guard with the Philadelphia 76ers, Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks experienced the ultimate sweep when the Sixers beat the defending world champion Los Angeles Lakers in four straight games for the 1983 NBA title.
With a victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 on Saturday, OKC would pull off arguably the runner-up ultimate sweep by eliminating the reigning world champions 4-0 in the first round.
Tipoff at American Airlines Center is 6:30 p.m.
Should the Thunder even be thinking sweep? Should they deliberately not think sweep? Is it taboo to discuss a possible sweep?
As we have learned ad nauseam since the franchise arrived in OKC in 2008, everyone listed in the Thunder directory views life one day at a time, and the postseason certainly is no different. Should anyone on the roster dare look past the next game, his head might explode. No exaggeration.
In general terms — not day-to-day — how should a team approach a potential sweep? Ignore it? Embrace it? Deny it? Roll with it?
No NBA team has ever won a playoff series after trailing 3-0. The 1951 New York Knicks, 1994 Denver Nuggets and 2003 Portland Trail Blazers are the only teams to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0, but each lost the finale.
The 1983 Sixers were so dominant with Cheeks, they went 12-1 overall in the playoffs, beating New York (4-0) and Milwaukee (4-1) before sweeping the Lakers.
"I don't speak in terms of a sweep," Cheeks said before Friday's practice. "It's crazy to think that way or expect it. To do it, you have to have a lot of things go your way, and the other team has to have some bad luck involved."
Though he won the 2008 world title with the Boston Celtics, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins has been involved in only one sweep in his nine-year career — and he was on the wrong side of it.
The Indiana Pacers had a first-round sweep over the Celtics during Perkins' rookie season in 2003-04. In fact, Boston lost Games 3 and 4 at home by 23 and 15 points.
This experience was so devastating, Perkins has blocked it from his memory.
"We got swept? For real?" a disbelieving Perkins asked when reminded. "Nah, I don't think so."
To Perkins, Game 4 on Saturday against Dallas is no different from Game 1 the previous Saturday.
"Shoot, you try to win every day that you can," Perkins said. "You don't want to leave nothing on the table. You don't want to prolong the series, for real. You want to get that over with."
Thinking sweep also is disrespecting your opponent.
"You kind of don't want to have that mindset about sweeping somebody," Perkins said. "You really just want to go out there and win each game. You don't want to look at it as, 'Oh, just because it's Game 4 and they're down 3-0 they're just going to lay down.' You don't ever think that. If you happen to win Game 4, then you can think about what faces you next."
Thunder reserve point guard Derek Fisher has five championship rings, but has been on the wrong side of three playoff sweeps in his 16-year career, including last year in the second round against the Mavericks.
"There's not any pressure to sweep a team," Fisher explained. "The pressure is to win four out of seven and we're three games closer to that goal. I don't think (Saturday) is about us putting our entire hopes on winning that game. We just need to come in here and focus. That's what we did (Thursday) night (a 95-79 blowout victory) and it worked well for us."
OKC veteran center Nazr Mohammed, who won the 2005 world title with the San Antonio Spurs, looked at it from the Mavericks' point of view.
"They're not just going to lay down," Mohammed said. "No one wants to be swept. With each win you allow, you'd let them get more and more hope, more and more confidence, so they're going to play better every game. We're confident in ourselves to get a fourth win."