By: Earl K. Sneed

ALLAS — The time had finally come.

After sitting and awaiting Oklahoma City’s Game 7 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, the Dallas Mavericks made their long-awaited return to the hardwood to host the Thunder on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals a full nine days after sweeping the two-time champion Los Angeles Lakers.

And with his team well-rested but sure to battle rust from the layoff, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle entered the much-anticipated showdown preaching one clear-cut message to his players: One win and the Mavs are just three steps away from a spot in the NBA Finals.

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