Mavericks hold on to beat Thunder for a 2-1 lead in Western Conference semifinals

May 11, 2024, 7:57 PM

Luka Doncic...

Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks attempts a pass past Luguentz Dort #5 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first quarter in Game Three of the Western Conference Second Round Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 11, 2024 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic already had a balky right knee and an achy left ankle when he fell hard on his back while battling his primary defender, Lu Dort, for a loose ball.

Not only did Doncic win the ensuing jump ball, the NBA scoring champion tracked down the loose ball that followed with his Dallas Mavericks clinging to a late lead.

“Everything,” Doncic said when asked what hurt, a few minutes after walking gingerly to the locker room with Dallas having beaten Oklahoma City 105-101 on Saturday to secure a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals. “I’m just battling out there.”

The same could be said for plenty of others.

Kyrie Irving scored 22 points, including a running left-hander in the lane in the final minute to help the Mavs hold on.

Doncic also had 22 points to go with 15 rebounds, and P.J. Washington Jr. scored 27, just two shy of his playoff high from Dallas’ Game 2 victory.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 31 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, but was called for a charge with Doncic defending on a drive with 29 seconds left and the Thunder trailing by five.

Chet Holmgren, who scored 13 points, also had four blocks as Oklahoma City finished with 10. But the Thunder were outrebounded 16-5 on the offensive glass by the scrappy Mavs, who had a 16-9 edge in second-chance points.

Top-seeded Oklahoma City has lost consecutive games after starting 5-0 in the playoffs. Game 4 is Monday night in Dallas.

“It’s extremely competitive,” Holmgren said. “Both teams really want it. If you take the result out of it, it’s everything that you want to be going through in a basketball game.”

Irving bounced back from just the third single-digit scoring game of his lengthy playoff career with 14 points in the second half, including six consecutive Dallas points in the fourth quarter that helped the Mavs to their biggest lead of the final period at nine.

The Dallas lead was three after a missed 3-pointer from Gilgeous-Alexander when Irving drove across the lane and hit a runner for a 104-99 lead with 39 seconds to go.

The eight-time All-Star, coming off just eight shots and nine points when Dallas evened the series in Oklahoma City, was 10 of 17 from the field and had seven assists to lead the team for the second game in a row.

“One of my coaches just came up to me and said I waited too long, so obviously I’ve got to be better on my end,” said Irving, who made all four of his fourth-quarter shots. “We’re going against a young team. So we just want to continue to do the things that get us these W’s, and it starts on the defensive end.”

Washington had a 19-point first half for the second consecutive game, once again finishing three points shy of the combined total before the break for Irving and Doncic. Washington was 3 of 6 from 3-point range in the first half and 5 of 12 for the game.

“He’s hooping,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We’ve got to turn that water off if we want to win this series, for sure.”

Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault decided to foul Dereck Lively II intentionally in the fourth quarter, and the rookie center missed three of the first four free throws. But he hit the next four in a row, the last putting Dallas up 100-95 with 3:06 to go.

Lively, who shot 51% from the line in the regular season and came in 11 of 21 in the playoffs, finished 8 of 12 on free throws and had 12 points and eight rebounds.

Mavericks center Daniel Gafford, who dealt with a dislocated pinkie finger in Game 2, exited in the second quarter after injuring his left shoulder in an inadvertent collision with Josh Giddey.

Gafford returned to the court for the second half with the shoulder in a large wrap, but took it off and was still in the starting lineup. He was limited to six minutes after the break, finishing with eight points.

Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams stayed down for almost 30 seconds of live action in the third quarter, ending in a 3-pointer by Irving, after injuring his left ankle. Williams went the locker room briefly but returned early in the fourth quarter and finished with 16 points and eight assists.

Isaiah Joe had his playoff career best for a game with 10 points before halftime, hitting a 3 just before the buzzer to give Oklahoma City a 52-51 lead at the break. Joe finished with 13.

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