By STEPHEN HAWKINS, Associated Press
DALLAS (AP) — Derek Fisher remembers how it felt to be swept out of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks.
That was only last year, when he was still playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. The veteran guard is now part of an Oklahoma City team full of young stars that has a chance to finish off a first-round sweep of the defending NBA champs.
"You just never forget not finding a way to win a game in a playoff series," Fisher said Friday. "But you learn from it, you grow from it. I feel like it's made me better in terms of appreciating when you're in an opportunity in the postseason later in your career to really just give everything you have."
Oh, how quickly Fisher is getting that chance.
Game 4 is Saturday night in Dallas, where the Thunder led throughout and by as many as 26 points in a dominating 95-79 victory in Game 3 after winning the first two games at home by a combined four points.
"You don't ever anticipate being up by mid-20s against Dallas on their home floor. That's awful aggressive on your part if you're thinking that way," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We've played good basketball."
After Dallas surprisingly swept past the Lakers to get to the Western Conference finals last year, the Mavericks needed only five games to eliminate Oklahoma City.
Only a week into this year's playoffs, the Mavs find themselves playing for a little pride and trying to at least win one game.
No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.
"The focus is very narrow, it's on one game," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We're not tense or tight. We understand the nature of competition. ... We haven't lost any enthusiasm about our approach, and we will not."
That sounds a lot like Oklahoma city.
When the Thunder walked onto the American Airlines Center floor for a workout Friday, Kevin Durant had headphones over his ears. So did James Harden, who sang along to whatever he was listening to.
Durant, the three-time NBA scoring champ, had the game-winning bucket in the series opener and finally rediscovered his shooting touch in Game 3 when he scored 31 points on 11 of 15 shooting. He had 15 points in the first quarter.
"We know we have to be prepared and focused and locked in," Durant said. "We've got a good opportunity. ... We haven't (done anything). That's what we have to think."
Fisher, whose No. 37 Thunder jersey matches his age, won five NBA titles with the Lakers. He signed with Oklahoma City in March after Los Angeles traded him to the Houston Rockets, who then bought out his contract.
The Thunder's starting lineup of 20-somethings includes All-Stars Durant and Russell Westbrook. Adding Fisher provided a lot of experience, playoff and otherwise.
"There are definitely things I can share verbally to my teammates. At the same time, it's those experiences in themselves that help you understand what it means and how to appreciate certain things," Fisher said. "It's important for them to experience it for who they are and what it means to them."
What Fisher had seen from the other side was confirmed when he got to the Thunder. It is a group that has "pure joy" for playing the game with a certain energy that is unique to the game.
"It's been a great ride so far," Fisher said.
One that could continue against Fisher's former team. Without a monumental collapse, the Thunder will advance to play the winner of the series between Los Angeles and Denver.
Before that can happen, the Thunder have to close out their series against Dallas. Winning the series is the focus, not necessarily getting a sweep.
"I don't think there's a negative to just thinking about winning the next game, which by default means (a sweep)," Fisher said. "There is not any pressure to sweep a team. The pressure is to win four out of seven, and we're three games closer to that goal."
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