NBA Playoffs: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leads Thunder past Mavs to tie series at 2-2

NBA Playoffs: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leads Thunder past Mavs to tie series at 2-2

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander didn’t get much offensive help from his teammates on Monday night.

He didn’t need it.

The Thunder All-Star team overcame a 14-point deficit in the first half to lead Oklahoma City to a 100-96 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. With this win, the Thunder tied the Western Conference semifinals 2-2 to avoid returning to Oklahoma City on the brink of elimination.

In a tough match for both teams, Gilgeous-Alexander was the star of the show by scoring 34 points. He helped lead the Thunder back from a 22-8 first quarter deficit and then built a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter that put the Thunder ahead 89-86. Oklahoma City never trailed again.

The Thunder struggled most of the night against a stifling Dallas defense that repeatedly challenged Oklahoma City’s efforts in the paint. But Gilgeous-Alexander thrived while Mavericks stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving struggled on offense.

Dončić had a chance to tie the game at the free throw line in the final seconds. He missed two shots with Dallas trailing 96-94 with 10.1 seconds left. Gilgeous-Alexander kept the game going with a pair of free throws with 1.4 seconds left to secure the four-point win.

Powered by PJ Washington and a dominant effort in the paint, Dallas took control early. The Mavericks led 30-20 in the first quarter and 54-43 at halftime. They did much of their early work on the boards with a 13-5 rebounding advantage in the first quarter and a 22-17 advantage at halftime. They recorded nine blocks in the first half while holding the Thunder to 34.9% shooting from the field. Oklahoma City made just one of 11 three-point attempts in the first half.

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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put on a show in Oklahoma City's win over Dallas on Monday night.  (Tim Hittman/Getty Images)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put on a show in Oklahoma City’s win over Dallas on Monday night. (Tim Hittman/Getty Images)

The Thunder responded in kind and shut down the Mavs’ offense in the third quarter, limiting Dallas to 15 points in the stanza. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 12 points in the quarter as the Thunder ended with a 22-12 lead, narrowing the gap to 69-65 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Dallas maintained its lead for most of the fourth quarter until Gilgeous-Alexander took control of the game in the final six minutes. He scored eight straight Thunder points while frequently hitting contested shots to get the Thunder back into the game.

His stat tear over Tim Hardaway Jr. and Washington tied the game at 86-86.

Then a Chet Holmgren 3 with an assist from Gilgeous-Alexander capped a 9-0 run, giving the Thunder their first lead since 4-2 in the first quarter at 89-86. And they did not abandon it.

When it was over, Oklahoma City had erased its early rebounding deficit and held a 47-45 lead on the glass for the game. The Thunder shot 6 of 16 from 3 after halftime after a one-man draw at halftime.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 34 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 14 of 27 from the field. He missed his only 3-point attempt. Holmgren added 18 points, nine rebounds and four blocks while shooting 6 of 9 from the field. Jalen Williams (5 of 19), Josh Giede (2 of 8) and Loguentz Dort (4 of 14) struggled from the field as Oklahoma City overcame a 38% shooting night to secure the win.

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Dallas wasn’t much better from the field on the night shooting 40.9%. Mistakes at the free throw line proved costly down the stretch. The Mavericks missed five free throws in the fourth quarter, trying 12-for-23 (52%) from the stripe on the night.

Dončić’s late miss stood out, but he was the only maverick among the six who attempted free throws to shoot better than 50% at the stripe in a 4-for-6 effort. He finished with an 18-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist triple-double. But the shooting woes that plagued him throughout the postseason (41% before Monday) returned on a 6-of-20 attempt from the field.

Irving gave up shots to his teammates while shooting 4-of-11 from the field for nine points and nine assists. Washington led the Mavericks in scoring for the third straight game as he scored 21 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and shot 5 of 11 from 3. Unlike Games 2 and 3, his scoring output did not lead to the win.

The series now returns to Oklahoma City for Game 5 on Wednesday night.

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