Seeing how the Thunder owns a 3-0 lead in its best-of-seven series against the reigning world champion Dallas Mavericks, it seems logical to think OKC has the momentum.
Not so, say the participants.
After the Thunder took a 2-0 lead with a pair of last-second victories over the Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena, veteran point guard Derek Fisher said there was no such thing as momentum in the playoffs, that each game is its own entity.
Turns out players and coaches on both sides concur, repeatedly citing the one-game-at-a-time approach.
"I would have to agree (with Fisher)," said Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd, who has advanced to the playoffs 16 straight seasons. "Every game is going to be different. You might have different 'X' factors step in and maybe knock down a shot that they normally don't, and that's what makes the playoffs so special, so I think I would agree.
"Momentum is something you build into that game. You don't carry it over to the next game, because every game is going to be different because of the different adjustments you make for each game."
Momentum or not, OKC can end the series with a victory in Game 4 on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at American Airlines Center.
In Game 1, Dallas sixth man Jason Terry made his first six shots, eight of his first nine, shot 4 for 4 from 3-point range and had 20 points through three quarters. In the fourth quarter, he got shut out and attempted just one shot.
Before Game 2, Terry vowed he would score points aplenty in the fourth quarter. He scored eight in the period, but the Mavericks trailed 2-0 in the series after another close loss.
In Game 3, Terry finished with 11 points, six assists, four turnovers and shot 3 for 10 from the field in yet another loss.
After Thursday's game, Terry claimed he still had hope.
"I think we come out with pride and play hard, and execute our game plan," Terry said of Game 4 on Saturday. "We haven't done that in this series for 48 minutes. Hopefully Saturday night we can get that done.
"This is what it's all about. Can you fight through adverse situations, come together as a team and get it done? I believe we can. People say I'm crazy. Go see a doctor."
LOSING YOUR WILL
OKC jumped out to a 28-13 lead with 2:16 left in the first quarter in Game 3 on Thursday and went on to win 95-79.
If the Thunder gets off to a similar start in Game 4, it might break whatever spirit remains for the defending champs.
Can a team sense when the other team has lost its will?
"You can sense it," said Fisher, a five-time champion. "It's not something you can anticipate or plan for, but there are opportunities in key games where there's a chance to get separation and put a team in a position where it's going to be almost impossible for them to get back.
"I thought (Thursday) night … I was very proud of our guys for mentally staying very focused, and then finding that breaking point where you can get the separation in the particular game."
Last season, the Mavericks became the second-oldest team to win an NBA title behind the 1998 Chicago Bulls. Despite having an extra day to rest between Games 2 and 3, the Mavs looked worn out Thursday night.
"At this level, at this time of year, age is a plus. Experience is something that counts," Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha said. "But at the same time we want to keep running and getting some easy baskets."
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins spoke of the difficulty in beating any NBA team four straight times, let alone a team in the playoffs — particularly the defending world champions.
"It's not easy at all," Perkins said. "It's a mental thing, a mental toughness, first of all. Each team knows the other's plays, so it's definitely hard. They're the defending champion, so you've got to expect them to come out even harder (Saturday). A team like that has got too much pride to let a young team like us beat 'em four times in a row, with all the Hall of Famers they got."
Dallas won last year's crown, so who better to ask if the Thunder has that championship look this year?
"They led the West most of the year," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "They're one of a handful of teams that is a true contender, and we're going to continue to view ourselves that way until we're not playing anymore. We have every intention of going out there (Saturday) night and making a stand and defending our court."
Game 4 — Saturday at 6:30 p.m., American Airlines Center in Dallas
Game 5, if necessary — Monday at 7 p.m., Chesapeake Energy Arena
Game 6, if necessary — May 10 at TBA, American Airlines Center in Dallas
Game 7, if necessary — May 12 at TBA, Chesapeake Energy Arena
Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki after the 95-79 loss on Thursday night in Game 3: "Tonight we picked a bad time to put a stinker out there."
Fisher on the chances of winning Game 4: "I think we'll have to be better than (Thursday) night to win because they won't be as bad (Saturday). They'll be much better and we'll have to be better also."