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May 17, 2024 2:23 pm

Host Mavericks looking to bounce top-seeded Thunder

luka doncic

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks are trying to stay the course and not get overly wrapped up in the consequences of Saturday’s contest against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Mavericks hold a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference second-round series and a victory would propel fifth-seeded Dallas into the conference finals for the second time in the past three seasons.

But the Mavericks didn’t protect home floor in Game 4 of the series, prompting a cautious view heading into Saturday.

“We’ve got one more to win out of two games,” Doncic told reporters. “That’s it. We’re up 3-2, but that’s still nothing. We’ve got to finish it and go with the same mentality at home.”

Dallas regained the series lead with a 104-92 road victory over the Thunder in Game 5.

That victory on Wednesday put top-seeded Oklahoma City in danger of elimination.

“Our mood won’t change, our mentality won’t change,” Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It’s one game at a time. We wanted to win (Game 5) as badly as we’re going to want to win the next game.”

Gilgeous-Alexander and Doncic, who finished second and third, respectively, in NBA MVP voting, have stood out in the series.

Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 31.4 points with four straight 30-point outings. His low outing is 29 and his high is 34.

Doncic is averaging 23.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 8.4 assists in the series. He had 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in Game 5 for his second straight triple-double.

But Doncic also had poor-shooting efforts in Game 1 (6 of 19) and Game 4 (6 of 20). The Mavericks lost both contests.

But in Game 5, he made five 3-pointers for the second time in the series as Dallas moved back ahead.

“Our mentality, we know the last game we played against them at home, we let it go,” Doncic said. “It was our mistakes and they hit shots. In the playoffs, it’s the first to four, you got to win before they do. So you got to go game by game.

“The whole team stepped up. I couldn’t do it without my teammates. Everybody that came on the floor gave 100 percent energy. We play as a team. We win as a team. We lose as a team. I’ve been having a lot of fun with this team.”

The Thunder will be looking to get Gilgeous-Alexander some help on Saturday night.

Nobody else on Oklahoma City scored more than Chet Holmgren’s 13 points in Game 5 and the Thunder were a shaky 10 of 40 from 3-point range.

“There is a lot that we can take away from this past game that was really good,” said Thunder guard Jalen Williams, who scored a series-low 12 points. “I think we got a lot of stuff that we wanted to accomplish and just kind of lost the game. We know it’s a tough task going over there and winning, but now it’s kind of like that first to best out of three series and that’s how we’re treating it.”

Oklahoma City even tried a lineup change in Game 5 by moving third-year point guard Josh Giddey to the bench for the first time in his career. Isaiah Joe was elevated to the starting lineup but had just six points on 2-of-9 shooting.

Williams said the Thunder are not dismayed to be facing elimination.

“We can be as good as we want to be as long as we hold each other accountable, continue to play the right way and keep the outside noise on the outside,” Williams said.

Mavericks star Kyrie Irving said his club needs to bring everything in its arsenal.

“This is one of the hardest series I’ve ever played, so just the focus level has to be at a level that reflects that,” Irving said. “We have what it takes to win. But also, we understand we’re not going to get there without guys feeling like their best selves.”

–Field Level Media

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