Mavericks come from behind to down Thunder, take 2-1 series lead

    After an incredible 5-0 start to the postseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s inexperience is beginning to show on the big stage. Meanwhile, veterans Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving and P.J. Washington have put the Dallas Mavericks ahead in their Western Conference semifinals matchup.

    After winning Game 1 and dropping Game 2 at home, the Thunder came out with a strong road effort on Saturday, leading by one at halftime and by as many as 10 points in the second half. Down the stretch, though, poor strategy and shot selection paired with another gutsy effort from Doncic and company ultimately doomed their hopes in a 105-101 loss. 

    Things were looking up for OKC early in the third quarter, leading 65-55 following a 13-4 run to start the half. But, the Mavs immediately responded, outscoring the Thunder 16-0 over the next 4:21 to gain the lead, 71-65, as well as control of the game. 

    With the Thunder trailing in the fourth quarter and already in the foul bonus, they decided to intentionally foul center Dereck Lively (a 50% free-throw shooter), to slow the game down. The strategy backfired, as Lively went 5-8 at the charity stripe, making four in a row at one point. 

    At the same time the Mavericks went to work defensively, buckling down to hold OKC to just 7-of-20 from the field in the fourth quarter. Rotating and switching much better in Game 3, they frustrated the Thunder, forcing them to rush or put up low-percentage shots through much of the final stanza. 

    On the other end of the floor, Doncic and Irving took over. The pair combined for 14 of the Mavericks’ 23 fourth-quarter points. 

    Doncic, who managed only one basket in the third, recorded six points down the stretch, finishing with 22 points (7-of-17) with 15 rebounds. Irving also had 22 points, scoring eight in the fourth quarter alone. Furthermore, P.J. Washington continued his outstanding postseason run, posting a team-high 27 points (11-of-23), including five three-pointers. 

    For the Thunder, MVP runner-up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had another tremendous game, recording 31 points (10-of-23) with 10 rebounds and six assists over 42 grueling minutes. But quiet outings from Chet Holmgren (13 points) and Josh Giddey (nine points) and late team foul trouble made winning Game 3 an uphill battle. 

    With the win on Saturday the Mavericks protected home court after splitting the first two games on the road. Now, with a win on Monday, they’ll have a chance to send the series back to Oklahoma City up two games on the favorite to come out of the Western Conference.  

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