Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder sit one game away from sweeping the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Durant shot an impressive 73-percent against the Mavericks in Dallas to give the Thunder their third consecutive win of the series, and if he plays that well again on May 5, the Thunder will move on to the second round of the postseason.
It is a huge turnaround from the 2010-11 season when the Mavericks won the NBA Finals. In last year's playoffs, Dallas not only beat the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, but also swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the same postseason. New Thunder guard Derek Fisher played for those Lakers and this is a chance to show Dallas what it feels like.
It would be the second season in a row that the defending NBA Champions were swept in the postseason. Last year, Dallas won the NBA Finals after sweeping the defending NBA Champion Lakers. This year, Oklahoma City hopes for the same end result if they finish off Dallas at the American Airlines Center.
Even if they lose tonight, the Thunder have history on their side. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.
In Game 3, Oklahoma City led by as many as 26 before finally putting Dallas away by 16 with bench players playing most of the fourth quarter.
One of the big differences this season is having a player like Fisher in the lineup. The backup guard won five NBA Championship rings while playing with the Lakers and joins center Kendrick Perkins as the elder statesmen of the young Thunder lineup. With that experience added to the youthful enthusiasm of the Thunder starters, Oklahoma City has quickly become one of the NBA elite.
Don't count out Dallas in Game 4. These Mavericks may not win the series but they are playing for pride, and with Dirk Nowitzki leading them on the court, they can win any game at any time. They lost the first game on a last second jumper and the second came down to the final minute as well. Dallas will put up a fight, that is for sure.
However, this has become the Thunder's series to lose.
Author Shawn S. Lealos has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma (2000) and is an avid sports fan that has lived in Oklahoma for over 40 years. He used to religiously follow the Dallas Mavericks until Oklahoma City found a team to call their own.