Tight finish sends Mavs past Thunder, into Western Conference finals

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) controls the ball as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort (5) defends during the second half Saturday at American Airlines Center. (Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports)

The Dallas Mavericks led for just one minute during the first 44-plus minutes of Saturday’s postseason game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But down the stretch, the Mavericks were wiser and more resilient than the ultra-talented Thunder while overcoming a 17-point, third-quarter deficit.


“You get to the point where you have the opportunity to close out a team, you have to take full advantage of it,” Dallas guard Kyrie Irving said afterward.

The Mavericks did just that as P.J. Washington made two free throws with 2.5 seconds left and Dallas advanced to the Western Conference finals for the second time in the past three seasons with a 117-116 victory over the visiting Thunder.

Washington was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and missed the third free throw on purpose to prevent a Thunder squad out of timeouts from being able to set up for a final shot. Jalen Williams’ 64-footer as time expired was nowhere near the basket as top-seeded Oklahoma City was eliminated in Game 6 of a second-round playoff series.

The Mavericks will face either the Denver Nuggets or Minnesota Timberwolves in the conference finals.

Luka Doncic recorded 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the fifth-seeded Mavericks. Irving and Derrick Jones Jr. added 22 points apiece, Dereck Lively II had 12 points and 15 rebounds off the bench and Daniel Gafford had 10 points.

“We said at halftime we weren’t going back to Oklahoma,” Doncic said of his team’s 16-point halftime deficit.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander registered 36 points and eight assists for Oklahoma City. Williams added 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and Chet Holmgren scored 21 points.

Gilgeous-Alexander stood out during his first trip to the playoff stage and scored at least 29 points in every game of this series.

But he was called for the foul on Washington with the Thunder nursing a one-point lead in the final seconds.

“I should not have fouled him,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We talk about it all year — the little things that go into winning games and being disciplined. It sucks.

“If I had the moment back, I wouldn’t have fouled him and would just let him make or miss the shot.”

Washington buried a 3-pointer with 2:01 left in regulation to give Dallas a 113-110 lead. Jones hit a turnaround jumper with 1:11 remaining to give the Mavericks a five-point edge.

Gilgeous-Alexander knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:05 to go to bring Oklahoma City within two.

Washington was called for a foul before the ball was inbounded with 27 seconds left, sending Gilgeous-Alexander to the line to sink one free throw. The Thunder kept possession, and Gilgeous-Alexander drove the lane and lofted a high pass that Holmgren slammed home for a 116-115 lead with 20.4 seconds left.

A short time later, Oklahoma City was headed home — not to play the Mavericks in the coveted Game 7 as hoped.

“Clearly our roster was good enough this year to win a lot of games and be the No. 1 seed in a really tough conference,” Thunder coach Mark Daigenault said. “It’s painful, obviously. We thought we had the chance to achieve something special.”

Oklahoma City shot 47.8 percent from the field, including 15 of 41 (36.6 percent) from 3-point range. Isaiah Joe and Lu Dort tallied 11 points apiece for the Thunder.

The Mavericks connected on 51.2 percent of their shots and were 16 of 34 (47.1 percent) from behind the arc.

After seeing the Thunder lead by as many as 17 in the third quarter, Lively threw down a dunk to cap a 7-0 run as Dallas tied the score at 97 with 6:30 left in the game.

The Thunder later led 105-101 after Gilgeous-Alexander buried an 18-footer with 4:44 left. The Mavericks then answered with six straight points.

Oklahoma City later tied the score at 110 on Gilgeous-Alexander’s jumper with 2:47 to play.

Doncic drained a 3-pointer to give Dallas a 42-40 edge with 4:54 left in the first half. That lead lasted exactly one minute and marked the only time the Mavericks were ahead until late in the game.

The Thunder outscored Dallas 24-6 the rest of the second quarter to hold a 64-48 halftime lead.

Oklahoma City led 77-60 after Holmgren’s basket with 8:25 left in the third quarter before Dallas began its charge with 13 consecutive points.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.