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Rick Carlisle wants focus on game

DALLAS -- On the brink of being swept out of the playoffs, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said the beginning of what would be a historic comeback starts by eliminating distractions with the referees, starting with him.

Yet, in the same breath, Carlisle, just 13 hours after the defending champions were run off their home floor by the Oklahoma City Thunder and into a 3-0 ditch in this first-round series, continued to lean on the officiating as he did after Games 1 and 2.

"There's distractions you've got to avoid and that includes me," Carlisle said Friday. "Even if they miss three calls in one possession, I can't get a technical. I got to have more self-control."

Asked to explain the three calls he believed were missed, Carlisle said: "Well, there was a moving screen not called, there was a charge we took that wasn't called and then there was a blatant goaltend. The three-fers, they get me going a little more. But, I've got to lay off of it."

Carlisle was hit with a technical foul barely eight minutes into the Mavs' 95-79 loss in Game 3. He lost control on the sideline, and lunged toward referee Marc Davis as he shouted at him and wildly flailed his arms. Assistant coach Terry Stotts subdued Carlisle, who otherwise might have been headed toward an early ejection.

Carlisle's technical came just minutes after Dirk Nowitzki was assessed one for arguing which allowed the Thunder to take a 21-11 lead at the 4:01 mark.

Carlisle set the tone after Game 1 when he complained that Thunder forward Serge Ibaka and center Kendrick Perkins were getting away with grabbing and holding Nowitzki. After Game 2 when Nowitzki and Perkins got into a brief altercation in the first quarter and were assessed double technical fouls, Carlisle accused Perkins of "dirty" play.

"Hey, I love hard play, clean, competitive playoff series," Carlisle said after Game 2. "You throw the ball up and may the best team win, but the dirty bulls--- has got to stop. We don't want anybody getting hurt out there, either way."

Carlisle did acknowledge Friday that the officiating alone did not doom the Mavs Thursday night in a game they never led and trailed by as many as 15 points in the first and second quarters and by as many as 26 in the fourth quarter.

Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks scoffed at Carlisle's grabbing and holding claims following Game 1 and he said that his team, despite its youth and lack of playoff experience compared to the Mavs' veteran roster, has, to its benefit, maintained an even-keel toward the officiating.

"We just played. We just played hard basketball," Brooks said after the convincing Game 3 win. "We played as hard as we can and we live with the results. We don't get caught up in things that we can't control. We know they have the heart of a champion, but we just play."

No team in NBA history has come all the way back after losing the first three games. Carlisle said his team still has belief that they can make this series interesting by taking Game 4 on Saturday and returning the series back to Oklahoma City for a Game 5 on Monday.

"No question. Somebody's going to do it, it's going to happen," Carlisle said. "The thing is to get to that point we've got to focus on tomorrow's game, we've got to focus on the first quarter, the first six minutes and work it whistle to whistle. That's the way it's got to happen. We still have a lot of belief in ourselves and what we're doing and we're going to keep fighting."