- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPNDallas.com
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DALLAS -- The whining about the officiating began early in the first quarter Thursday, perhaps a subconscious indication that the Dallas Mavericks knew they needed help to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After all, no team seemingly whines about the officials more than the Mavs, who follow their owner's lead. Rick Carlisle, the best coach the Mavs have ever had, has been doing it all series.
Whether he realized it or not, all the complaining did was give the rest of his squad permission to moan and groan about every whistle that didn't go their way.
Dirk Nowitzki picked up a technical four minutes into the game with the Mavs already trailing by six points. Carlisle earned a technical three minutes later and the Mavs down by 10.
Maybe they were trying to spark the Mavs. Or persuade the officials to call the game differently.
The officiating, though, has had nothing to do with the Mavs' fundamental problem in this series: They're not good enough.
Oklahoma City is bigger, stronger, quicker and faster.
The Thunder shoot better and defend better. And they have three stars -- Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden -- who can share the load, as opposed to the Mavs, who require Dirk to score, rebound and be their enforcer in this series.
By the way, Oklahoma City's inferiority complex is gone. The Thunder know they are better. And so do the Mavs.
Oklahoma City left no doubt of its dominance in Game 3 of this Western Conference quarterfinal at American Airlines Center.
Oklahoma City 95, Dallas 79.
The only question is whether the Mavs' championship reign ends with the embarrassment of getting swept for the first time in franchise history Saturday in Game 4, or if Oklahoma City must wait for Game 5, which will allow it to celebrate Monday on its home court.
On Wednesday, Nowitzki and Carlisle discussed the importance of winning Game 3 because no team in NBA history has ever rallied from a 3-0 series deficit. No, the Mavs won't be the first.
And don't forget, Jason Terry proclaimed "Game 3 is Game 7" after the Mavs' practice Wednesday.
So we expected to see one of Dallas' strongest first-quarter performances of the season, something that would inspire the Mavs' tepid crowd to turn raucous. You know, something that showed the heart of a champion.
Oklahoma City scored the game's first six points and led 16-7 when Carlisle burned his first timeout.
"Our goal was to come out swinging and get some energy in the building," Nowitzki said. "Instead, we started off 0-for-6 from the field. Give them credit, they threw a heck of a game at us.
"We picked a bad time to put a stinker out there. No one had a good game for us."
While the Mavs whined, the Thunder pushed the lead to 28-13 with 2:15 left in the first quarter.
"There was some frustration with the officials, but we're not going to make it about the officials," Carlisle said. "I'm not going to sit up here and make a bunch of excuses.
"Sometimes things with the officials get to you -- I'm not going to go into a big thing about that -- but we've got to rise above that."
See, good teams and good players overcome questionable calls and officiating. They play through adversity instead of throwing a pity party.
Besides, it's not like it was the officials' fault the Mavs were getting outrebounded 14-8 midway through the first quarter, while making only five of their first 17 shots as Oklahoma City pulled away.
What's worse is their whining had no credence.
When the first half ended, Oklahoma City had been called for 11 fouls, the Mavs nine. Oklahoma City shot eight first-half free throws, the Mavs shot 12.
The Thunder shot one free throw in the second and third quarters combined -- the result of a technical foul on Delonte West. The officiating didn't impact Game 3 and it hasn't had any impact on this series, if we're honest. Those looking for excuses will find them anywhere and everywhere.
If you're mad, blame Mark Cuban -- not the officials.
The Mavs, as constructed this season, have been a flawed team from the start. All Oklahoma City has done is show us the Mavs, who struggled to find a rhythm all season, are who we thought they were.
They're an average team that's been exposed by a superior club. All of the whining in the world can't change that.
Mavs' whining over officiating doesn't change the fact that they're average.