DALLAS -- The Dallas Mavericks are champions no more.
Their reign -- if they even had one -- atop the NBA is over.
They're down 3-0 against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the 2012 playoffs following Thursday night's 95-79 loss at the America Airlines Center,
The only thing left is the crying.
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No team in NBA history has rallied from an 0-3 hole to come back and win a series.
The only hope now for the Mavericks is to not make dubious history in the process by being swept Saturday in Game 4. They would join the 2007 Miami Heat as the only defending champions in the past 40 years to be swept in the first round.
The truly sad part is that we already knew the season was not going to end the way it began with the Mavericks as reigning champions.
Any doubt about that was removed long ago -- not just before the beginning of this playoff series -- but before the season.
That is the most disappointing thing for the Mavericks and their fans.
After waiting so long to finally win an NBA title, the moment was seemingly gone before they got a chance to truly enjoy it, let alone savor it.
It started with the lockout that truncated their off-season of title glory.
Then came the shrewd and supposedly forward-thinking financial decision by owner Mark Cuban to break up the title team. He allowed center Tyson Chandler, forward Caron Butler and guards J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson to leave via free agency.
Of course that was before the mockery of the Lamar Odom saga in Dallas this season.
Cuban sacrificed this season in hopes of getting in on the Dwight Howard-Deron Williams free-agent sweepstakes in the off-season.
He struck out with Howard, who it appears will be with Orlando for another year.
And now there is talk out of Brooklyn that Williams, who is from The Colony, is leaning toward shunning his local team to re-sign with the Nets.
Unlike the popular song by Nets owner Jay Z, there is no On To The Next One for the Mavericks to move on to.
There was only one. This one title that they never got to enjoy, savor or realistically defend.
And now it's gone.
Don't blame the players or coach Rick Carlisle.
The numbers certainly looked ugly Thursday, as did the game.
All-star forward Dirk Nowitzki had just 17 points on 6-of-15 shooting and guard Jason Terry, the other co-star of the title run, had just 11.
They were no match for the Thunder and Kevin Durant, who broke out of his slump with 31 points on 11-of-15 shooting.
But don't mistake the blowout loss for the Mavericks quitting.
They are fighters.
They do have a champion's heart and it was willing.
They just didn't have the talent to compete, and we knew that before the season.
Twice Thursday night the Mavericks rallied from 15-point deficits when it looked as if they were going to be blown out of their own building in the first half.
Down 28-13 in the first quarter, they rallied with a 13-4 run to end the period.
Then it looked as if they were going to taken to the woodshed again in the second quarter, down 48-33, they refused to surrender, going on an 8-2 run to end the period.
They showed fight early when both Nowitzki and Carlisle were whistled for technical fouls.
An angry and desperate Carlisle ran on the court to challenge an official with more aggressiveness than his players have shown going to the basket.
Nowitzki's frustration got the best of him again in the second quarter. Following a questionable shot by Terry, he grabbed his shaggy hair with both hands and screamed at his teammate.
Dallas cut the score to 50-45 early in the third quarter, but that's when its lack of skill did not match up with its want-to and passion.
It was 75-57 after three quarters.
The fourth quarter was nothing more than an exhibition of the young Thunder toying with the old and laboring Mavs.
We knew the title run was going to end.
It's just a shame it had to end this way without the Mavericks really having a chance to defend it.
Clarence E. Hill Jr.