Dallas Mavericks lose, but shift focus to playoffs, Thunder

04/26/2012 11:41 PM

07/05/2012 7:43 PM

ATLANTA -- The Red River rivalry is back on again.

With Thursday's 106-89 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena, the Dallas Mavericks ended the regular season with a thud and will play another Red River challenge against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the opening round of the NBA playoffs.

Game 1 of that best-of-seven series will be at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, with Game 2 set for 8:30 p.m. Monday in Oklahoma City.

Game 3 will be at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Dallas, and Game 4 will be played at 6:30 p.m. May 5 at American Airlines Center.

If necessary, Game 5 will be May 7 in Oklahoma City, Game 6 is set for May 10 in Dallas, and Game 7 will be May 12 in Oklahoma City.

The No. 7-seeded Mavs (36-30) are more than happy to be matched against the No. 2-seeded Thunder (47-19), a team they beat in five games in last year's Western Conference Finals en route to winning the NBA championship.

And the Mavs, who finished two games behind No. 6 seed Denver, believe their experience will give them a decisive edge.

"They're a great young team [and] we're a very veteran team," coach Rick Carlisle said of the Thunder. "We know the kind of capabilities that they have as a team, and we know what we have to do to play at our level.

"It's a great matchup. There's geographic interest, because the two teams are close together and we had a really intense series with them last year."

The Mavs were 1-3 against the Thunder this season, which includes a 104-102 loss in Oklahoma on Dec. 29 when Kevin Durant made a long 3-pointer at the buzzer. But the Mavs believe they are built to handle whatever it is the Thunder has to offer.

"We have a lot of respect for them, we had very intense games with them, we had very close games with them, and it's going to be a very competitive series," Carlisle said.

"We don't have a lot of prep time, and so we're going to have to flush this [loss to the Hawks] very quickly and get ready to key in on the things we're going to have to do to be successful in this series."

The Mavs must find a way to contain Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Durant if they have any chance at getting out of the first round.

But they must also be aware of Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and a slew of other talented players.

"They're a talented team," said point guard Jason Kidd, who missed his second straight game Thursday so he could rest for the postseason. "They're young, they're exciting, they can get out and cause havoc on the defensive end, but they can score the ball.

"We've got our hands full. We know it's going to take a team effort to find a way to get a win up there."

Guard Jason Terry, who had 11 points against the Hawks, said now is the time for the Mavs to wash the regular season down the drain and stand up and protect their NBA title.

"This is what you play for, so we're going for another championship, and obviously it starts in Game 1," Terry said. "Game 1 in a tough environment -- Oklahoma is a tough place to play -- but it's a team that we match up very well with.

"They've been playing very well, so it's going to be tough. But I think we're up to the task."

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter:@DwainPrice

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