Thunder-Mavericks: 5 takeaways as Thunder snag series tie vs. Mavs

OKC follows Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s lead and powers past Dallas for a 100-96 win to forge a 2-2 series tie.

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DALLAS — As Oklahoma City gathered, arms wrapped around one another for its group postgame interview after a 100-96 win, the Dallas Mavericks headed to the locker room seething.

The home team walked the long hall at American Airlines Center knowing it had just squandered a prime opportunity Monday to seize control of this Western Conference semifinal series.

Not to discredit the heroics of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who produced his third-straight game with 30-plus points to help the Thunder even the series 2-2 heading back to Oklahoma City for Game 5.

But Dallas fell apart in the clutch like slow-cooked Texas brisket.

The Mavs shot 6 of 11 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, while OKC nailed all seven of their free throws in that same span. After going 23-9 in clutch games in the regular season (games that are within five points in the final five minutes), the Mavs are 2-2 in clutch games the 2024 playoffs.

“It’s unacceptable,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “We can’t shoot 50% if we want to win.” 

Here are five takeaways from the matchup:

1. Gilgeous-Alexander magical down stretch

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 22 of his game-high 34 points in the second half without attempting a single 3-pointer while dishing five assists and logging two steals and two blocks.

He’d finish with eight rebounds and five assists.

The 25-year-old has now led the team in scoring or tied for the club’s high in scoring in all eight of OKC’s playoff games. He also shot 4-for-7 in the 4th quarter as the Thunder closed on a 28-16 run.

OKC had trailed by eight points with 8:04 remaining.

“There is a balance to find. When to attack, when to pass, when to make the right play, when not to make the right play and trust your skill,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It’s something I battle with a lot. This comes to taking what the defense gives you and trusting your teammates.”

Gilgeous-Alexander deadlocked the game at 86 with a shot over the outstretched arms of Tim Hardaway Jr. with 4:02 left from nearly behind the backboard.

“He took that thing by the horns there late,” OKC coach Mark Daigneault said.

Through the first three quarters, Gilgeous-Alexander’s fellow starters — Jalen Williams, Luguentz Dort, Josh Giddey and Chet Holmgren — shot a combined 10-for-34 from the field.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drops a game-high 34 points on the Mavericks as the Thunder even their series at 2-2.

2. P.J. Washington stays hot

Call it the puzzle of the series for Daigneault. On one hand, he could play the percentages based on a 73-game sample size of P.J. Washington from the regular season. Or OKC could operate in a more reactionary fashion to slow Washington after what’s transpired these last three games.

Washington led Dallas with a team-high 21 points in Game 4. The problem for Dallas was Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving failed to contribute the 40 points they’d combined to average over the first three games of this series.

Daigneault cautioned against overreacting to Washington. But to ignore his impact would also be “tone deaf,” the coach admitted.

“You can’t look at the box score and say we have to completely change what we’re doing,” Daigneault said. “Are we gonna make alterations for the fact that he’s playing very well? Absolutely.”

Anticipating the Thunder might adjust to stem the tide, Washington maintained the aggression he flexed his previous two outings, finishing the first half as Dallas’ second-leading scorer (11 points) behind Doncic (12).

Washington was 3-for-7 from 3-point range in the first half.

Doncic and Irving kept sling-shotting the passes his way. The forward notched his third-straight postseason game with five 3s or more and 30-plus points, tying Doncic (2021) for the longest such streak in Dallas postseason history.

3. OKC’s shooting woes continue

Dallas’ switching defense continues to wreak havoc on Oklahoma City’s offense, and we’re seeing it play out at the 3-point line.

Yes, the Thunder bounced back from a 1-of-11 performance in the first half to make 37.5% of its 3s in second half. But the visitors capitalized on some help from Dallas, which misfired on 11 of 13 from range after Washington splashed a 3 with 11:10 left in the third to put the Mavericks ahead by 14 points.

“We’re getting switched a lot,” Daigneault said. “[Dallas has] gotten into a rhythm defensively with their game plan. We’ve been able to get cracks at some easy stuff. But we’re not getting good enough shots every time down to sustain offense against that plan.”

OKC connected on 40% of its 3-pointers over the first five games of the playoffs, but that number has slipped to 31% over its last three outings.

The Mavs bailed out the Thunder at the free-throw line in Game 4.

Despite shooting eight more free throws than the visitors in the second half, the Mavericks lost the battle at the free-throw line, 11-9, over that span. Overall, Dallas shot just 52.2% on free throws, its third-worst performance from the stripe this season.

4. Mavericks throw a block party

By the time the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter, Dallas had already logged a whopping 12 blocks with three players (Dereck Lively II, Daniel Gafford and Derrick Jones Jr.) tallying at least three apiece.

The Mavericks would finish with 13 blocks, led by Jones and Lively (four apiece) and Gafford (three).

In all, five Dallas players registered at least one block. The 13 blocks rank as the most in a playoff game this season, and the most by the Mavericks in their postseason history.

Dallas’ physical presence inside explains how OKC shot 14 of 41 from the paint for 28 points on the night. The Mavs outscored the visitors in the paint by 12 points. OKC’s 28 points in the paint represent a new season low for the Thunder.

Game 4 also marked the sixth time the Mavericks limited an opponent to 101 points or fewer in these playoffs. Dallas was 15-0 in the regular season and postseason when it limited teams to 101 points or fewer.

Now, the Mavs are 15-1 in those conditions.

5. Doncic, Irving struggle

Doncic reeled off his fifth career postseason triple-double with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. But the miscues overshadowed the productivity.

The Mavericks’ star backcourt duo combined to shoot 3-for-10 in the final frame.

Doncic finished 6 of 20 from the field and committed seven turnovers — half of the team’s total — as OKC scored 19 points off Mavericks giveaways. Doncic split a pair of free throws with 10.1 seconds left that would have tied the game at 96.

Irving, meanwhile, contributed fewer than 10 points for the second time in his last three outings. The 32-year-old contributed nine assists against the Thunder.

Irving’s top assist totals this postseason have come in the last three games. Dallas was 17-2 this season when Irving finished with seven assists or more before Game 4.

“I feel like we played well enough to get the W tonight, majority of the game,” Irving said.  “But we just didn’t finish the job. The little things matter; free throws, offensive rebounds, those 50-50 basketballs we saw when they beat us in OKC.”

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

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