by Sam Riches / @sam_riches

On Monday night, the experience of the Dallas Mavericks prevailed over the young Thunder, as Oklahoma let a 15-point lead slip away in the final minutes. If it weren’t for that monumental collapse and the historic play of Dirk Nowitzki, this series could easily be tied.

Instead, the Mavs now hold a 3-1 lead. If they close out the series with a victory tonight, Dallas will return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2006. But as the Fort Worth Star Telegram reports, they aren’t counting the Thunder out just yet:

‘We really only had about 10 minutes of momentum (in Game 4),’ Carlisle said. ‘The rest of it we’re getting handled pretty well.

‘The reality is we have yet to throw a full 48-miunte game at these guys. Game 3 was our best game because it was our best defense, but tonight’s another opportunity to play better and if we’re going to be honest we need to play better.’

Except for the Mavs’ 93-87 victory in Game 4, the Thunder has scored over 100 points in every game in this series. They have literally had their way with the Mavs on the offensive end, which is why there’s somewhat of a nervous energy lingering around the AAC.

‘It’s going to be won on the defensive end,’’ center Brendan Haywood said. “They’re going to come out fighting for their lives, they’re going to come out with a lot of pride and a lot of anger about what happened the last game, and it’s going to be up to us to get it done defensively.

‘Offensively, we know we can score points. But it’s going to come down to how well we do defensively.’

The Mavericks biggest struggles have come on the glass. In Monday nights victory they were out-rebounded 55-33 and for the series the Thunder are averaging 8 more rebounds a game.

The emergence of James Harden could also cause trouble for Dallas, as the bearded one has been playing excellent off the bench. If Kevin Durant enters beast mode and Russell Westbrook distributes the ball and attacks the basket with equal aggressiveness, the high powered offense of the Thunder could stretch this series out for at least another battle or two.