NBA: Mavericks rally to beat Thunder in series Game 6 to advance to West Finals

NBA: Mavericks rally to beat Thunder in series Game 6 to advance to West Finals

The Dallas Mavericks clawed back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 117-116 at the American Airlines Center in Game 6 of their Western Conference second-round playoff series on Saturday night.

The Mavericks clinched the series with a 4-2 win over the top-seeded Thunder to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in three years and the sixth time in franchise history.

The game, which made for a spectacle for neutral fans, was as enthralling as they came with two clutch free throws from P.J. Washington late in the fourth quarter, sealing the victory for Dallas.

Luka Doncic ended with a triple-double for the third consecutive time in the series, leading the Mavericks with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, and the Slovenian praised his supporting cast for their impact in the win.

“The whole team was amazing. This team is special,” Doncic said. “I can’t describe what P.J. [Washington] and the others have done for us. With those guys on our team, we can’t complain. Same for Dereck [Lively]. We don’t win this series without him, the way he played tonight and throughout the season.

“We should enjoy this win…OKC are young but their team is amazing,” he added. “Big respect to them. We’ll celebrate this, watch Game 7 of the Wolves and Nuggets series, then get back to work.”

The fifth-seeded Mavericks headed into the halftime break down 64-48 in the closeout game on their homecourt. The lead rose to 17 points early in the third, but timely adjustments on both the defensive and offensive ends helped Dallas to a 35-26 win in the quarter to reduce the deficit to seven points.

The fourth quarter provided end-to-end excitement, with the two teams going shot for shot. With about 4:43 seconds on the clock, OKC were in the lead, 105-101, but a free throw from Dereck Lively II and a 3-pointer from Washington tied the game. At the two-minute mark, Washington hit another three before Derrick Jones Jr. scored to put the game at 115-110 with the Mavericks in the lead.

OKC responded with six straight combined points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chet Holmgren. However, the lead was short-lived as Shai fouled Washington on a 3-point attempt, which was upheld after a challenge from Thunder coach Mark Daigneault, and with three seconds left, Washington scored his first two free throws and deliberately missed the last one to ensure the clock keep running, leaving little to no time for OKC to make a play.

Washington, who got into foul trouble later on, wasn’t particularly great in the game, but he rose to the occasion when he was needed as he finished with nine points and five rebounds on 2 of 6 shots from the field.

Kyrie Irving, who is now 14-0 in closeout games, the most in NBA history, had 22 points and shot four 3s, the same as Jones Jr., who got his playoff career-high. Daniel Gafford finished with ten points and seven rebounds, and Lively II added 12 points and grabbed 15 rebounds off the bench, as he finished with the biggest plus/minus in the game (+26).

“I’m doing my best not to be so emotional right now because this is probably the hardest series I’ve ever had to go into,” Irving said. “This is just our moment and I think it’s time we enjoy it.”

The Mavericks outrebounded OKC 54-45, finishing with a superior second-chance point (27-8). While the Thunder dominated the paint (46-40) and scored more fastbreak points (15-10), they were kept to 36.6% from threes as a team, while the Mavericks shot 16-of-34 from three for 47.1%.

Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with a game-high 36 points as well as eight assists and four 3s. Jalen Williams finished with an impressive 22 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists; Holmgren added 21 points; while Isaiah Joe, who started in place of Josh Giddey, finished with eleven points, the same as Luguentz Dort.

The Mavericks will now look ahead to their Conference Final opponent, which will be decided after the Denver Nuggets host the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 7 of their series on Sunday.

Either of the two teams finished above Dallas in the regular season; therefore, they will have homecourt advantage over Jason Kidd’s side when the West Finals kick off on Wednesday, May 22.

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