Mavs vs Thunder

Mavs vs Thunder

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 117-116, on Saturday night in Dallas. The win secured a spot in the Western Conference Finals for the Mavericks. It was a hard-fought game with more twists and turns than an F1 track.

Mavs vs Thunder

For the Mavericks, Luka Doncic led the team with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. Kyrie Irving, who scored just four points in the first half, ended with 22 points. However, it was P.J. Washington who stole the show. He finished with just nine points, but they may be the most important points of his career.

 

For the young and rising Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the charge with 36 points, three rebounds, and eight assists. The Mavericks struggled to contain Gilgeous-Alexander, whose ability to manipulate the Mavericks’ defense created scoring opportunities for Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren, who contributed 22 and 21 points respectively.  Mavs vs Thunder

 

Throughout the game, it often seemed like a Game 7 on the road was inevitable for the Mavericks. However, their grit, mental toughness, and timely shot-making allowed them to pull off an improbable comeback and advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Mavs vs Thunder

The Thunder began the game strong, scoring within seconds of the tip-off and taking complete control early on. Lu Dort, in particular, was a force on both ends of the floor. He got caught on Luka’s hip and ran into him, sending Luka to the line, but his relentless defense on the pick and roll led to two consecutive turnovers. Offensively, he outsmarted Washington, drawing a foul and earning free throws. Minutes later, he nailed two three-pointers, putting the Mavericks on their heels.

 

For the Mavericks, it was once again Doncic who helped stop the bleeding and kept the game from getting out of hand early with a couple of step-back threes. With 4:30 left in the quarter, Doncic headed to the locker room, and Jaden Hardy came in. Hardy made a nice dish to Dereck Lively, leading to an easy dunk for the rookie big man. Mavs vs Thunder

Hardy ended the quarter with a strong finish in the paint, but his subsequent missed free throw allowed Jalen Williams to make a buzzer-beating shot. After one quarter, the Mavs were down 30-23. More notably, Kyrie finished the quarter with just two points on two field goal attempts.

 

The second quarter was marked by runs from both teams. The Mavs went on a 10-0 run to take their first lead of the game. The Thunder responded with two 7-0 runs, which sandwiched a Daniel Gafford alley-oop dunk. While Irving was largely invisible in the first quarter, he managed to score his only field goal of the quarter and his second of the game during this period. Mavs vs Thunder

Desperate for offense, Jason Kidd ended the quarter with a lineup featuring Luka, Kyrie, Hardy, Green, and Gafford. Unsurprisingly, the lineup struggled. They were dismantled by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder, who hit open three after open three to close the quarter. Led by SGA’s 21 points and 5 assists, the Thunder went into halftime with a 64-48 lead.

 

The third quarter was a tale of two stars. It began as the Luka Doncic show, but midway through, it shifted to the Shai Gilgeous-Alexander show. A Derrick Jones Jr. three-pointer at the end of the quarter made it a seven-point game, with the Thunder leading 90-83.

Despite Doncic’s seven turnovers, poor play from his supporting cast, and the team’s collective inability to effectively defend SGA, the Mavs were fortunate to be down just seven points, keeping the game within reach. Mavs vs Thunder

 

The crucial stretch in the fourth quarter came around the six-minute mark. The Mavericks had managed to tie the game and had opportunities to take the lead, but mental mistakes and defensive lapses allowed the Thunder to regain control. On three consecutive defensive possessions, Mavs players could be seen looking at each other in frustration due to missed assignments.  Mavs vs Thunder

The Thunder exploited this by driving into the defense and finding Chet Holmgren for easy lobs. Players were getting beaten off the dribble without the necessary help to cut off access to the rim. This stretch could have easily led to a loss, but credit to the Mavericks for finding a way to bounce back in the final minutes. Mavs vs Thunder

The last three minutes were an absolute blur. Lively hit an incredible shot. Washington, who had been quiet for most of the game, made a major impact. Luka was, as always, phenomenal.

Most teams would find a way to lose with SGA playing as well as he did, but this Mavericks team demonstrated resilience and mental toughness. As a result, they now find themselves in the Western Conference Finals. Here are some quick thoughts on an insane series-ending comeback win.

PJ Washington was/is incredible. Let’s settle this right now—the trade for Washington was a win. Even if the past week and a half end up being the peak of his career in Dallas, that statement will still hold true. Mavs vs Thunder

In a series where Kidd was desperate to find ways to get Doncic help, Washington stepped up and became a major reason why the team finds itself in the Western Conference Finals. In Games 2 through 5, he averaged 25 points per game.

More important than his scoring output was his defensive effort. Washington’s length and athleticism anchored a Mavericks defense that slowed down the Thunder offense and forced them to rely heavily on one player.  Mavs vs Thunder

While there isn’t a player on the planet who can single-handedly shut down SGA, when the game was on the line, it was PJ Washington tasked with making things difficult for him. Washington has truly become a cult hero among Mavericks fans, and his legend continues to grow.

Kyrie Irving needs to step up his game. Irving had one of the more frustrating halves to watch for fans. Let’s begin with his defense. On one particular play where Jalen Williams nailed a three, Irving’s lack of intensity was evident as he jogged with the effort of someone pretending to hurry while someone holds the door open for them. Such lackluster effort is simply unacceptable. Mavs vs Thunder

Speaking of effort, there was another play where, after crossing half court, Irving passed the ball to Luka and immediately put his hands on his knees. Even as two more passes were made, his hands remained on his knees.

Was this his way of silently protesting? Was he unhappy about not receiving enough touches? One would hope not, considering his lack of movement off the ball. If he desires the ball, he needs to actively seek it out.

He is undeniably one of the most skilled players to ever grace the basketball court. With his ability to navigate the floor effortlessly, he can reach any spot he desires. However, scoring only two baskets in a half is simply insufficient. His point totals in the first five games were 20, 9, 22, 9, and 12 respectively. Such numbers fall short of expectations. Mavs vs Thunder

He had a much stronger second half, which accentuates the shortcomings of the first half. Irving displayed resilience and competitiveness in the latter stages of the game, showcasing the version of himself that the team traded for and desperately needs to contend for the NBA Finals. Irving’s dynamic presence can influence a game beyond just scoring points.

While his shooting percentages weren’t concerning, his lack of field goal attempts was. Irving has earned a reputation for being mercurial, playing with his emotions on full display. A mere glance can reveal whether he’s fully engaged or merely going through the motions. For his sake and the team’s, let’s hope we never witness him appear as disinterested as he did in that first half again. Mavs vs Thunder

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