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June 18, 2024

NBA playoffs: Luka Dončić, Mavericks fend off Thunder in Game 2 to tie up series

NBA playoffs: Luka Dončić, Mavericks fend off Thunder in Game 2 to tie up series

Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks are back in it.

The Mavericks, after a blowout loss to kick off the series, powered past the Oklahoma City Thunder 119-110 on Thursday night at the Paycom Center. The win tied the series 1-1 as it heads to Dallas for Game 3 on Saturday night. It also was Oklahoma City’s first defeat in this year’s playoffs.

Dončić nearly had a triple-double and P.J. Washington erupted with a playoff-career high 29 points, including seven 3-pointers, to push the Mavericks to the win. Their 119 points was the most the Thunder have allowed this postseason after the top seed in the Western Conference flew past the New Orleans Pelicans in the opening round.

Mavericks hang on late Dončić and the Mavericks came out hot in the first quarter, and he went on triple-double watch almost immediately. Dončić put up 16 points and hit four of the Mavericks’ eight 3-pointers in the opening period to put them ahead instantly. He accounted for 24 of Dallas’ 36 points in the first quarter.

The Mavericks’ lead was cut to four points at the end of the first quarter after Thunder center Chet Holmgren pulled off a ridiculous buzzer-beater off a full-court inbounds pass.

While the Mavericks nearly pulled away before halftime and mounted a 15-point lead, Oklahoma City went on a 15-4 run to cut the score back to a single possession. Despite allowing 68 first-half points, the Thunder entered the locker room down just five points at the break.

Aaron Wiggins provided a huge spark for the Thunder to kick off the second half. After starting the third quarter in place of Josh Giddey, Wiggins led the Thunder on a 13-4 burst and he gave them their first lead of the game on a clutch floater in the lane.

That, though, was as big of a lead as the Thunder pulled off. The Mavericks, with Dončić on the bench, used an 18-4 run that included 10 straight points from Tim Hardaway Jr. to take a double-digit lead again.

Though the Thunder kept it close throughout the fourth quarter, the Mavericks kept them at arm’s length the rest of the way. Dončić seemed to have an answer for everything, and the Thunder had a rough run where they made just 1 of 11 field-goal attempts down the stretch, allowing the Mavericks to pull away.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led Oklahoma City with 33 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in the loss. He shot 13-of-24 from the field. Jalen Williams had 20 points, and Holmgren finished with 11 points and six rebounds. The Thunder, who swept the Pelicans in the first round, hadn’t allowed more than 95 points in a game in the postseason until Thursday night.

Dončić led Dallas with 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Washington had 11 rebounds and four assists to go with his 29 points while shooting 7-of-11 from behind the arc. Hardaway added 17 points off the bench after shooting 6-of-9 from the field. Kyrie Irving had 11 assists and nine points, but he shot just 2-of-8 from the field.

The Mavericks have health issues. Dončić has been dealing with a leg injury and tweaked an ankle briefly on Thursday, while Daniel Gafford played through a wrist injury. Yet they pulled off a much-needed road win early in the series. If they’re going to reach a second Western Conference finals in three years, that was key before returning to Dallas.

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