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May 12, 2024 3:23 pm

Mavericks out to extend series lead on top-seeded Thunder

P.J. Washington

The Dallas Mavericks appear to have found a third scoring threat to join stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving at just the right time.

Fifth-year forward P.J. Washington looks to continue his impressive run when Dallas takes on the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal series on Monday.

Washington made five 3-pointers and finished with 27 points in Saturday’s 105-101 home victory to help give the Mavericks a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Doncic had 22 points and 15 rebounds, while Irving also had 22 points, as Dallas trailed by 10 points in the third quarter before going on a critical 16-0 run.

“That was probably the missed opportunity of the game for us,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “We were up by 10 and had a pretty good grip on it and just didn’t stack quality enough possessions in that part of the game to either extend the lead or hold the lead.”

Oklahoma City, the top seed in the Western Conference, has struggled to contain Washington, who has scored a total of 56 points over the past two games while shooting a combined 12-of-23 from 3-point range.

“They’ve been leaving me in the corner so I’m just trying to take my time and knock them down,” Washington said. “They’re open shots, so for me, just take them with confidence. I’ve been working on them. That’s all I’m doing, honestly.”

Dallas has needed Washington’s contributions while Doncic plays through a right knee sprain and other ailments.

Doncic finished third in the league’s MVP voting after averaging 33.9 points, but his lingering injuries have kept him from taking over offensively in the current series.

“He used his voice very well tonight,” Irving said of Doncic after Saturday’s victory. “You could tell he wanted to win, and that’s all we need from Luka. For us, it’s just continuing to feed him that energy that he can trust who he’s around and he can trust that when the ball leaves his hands, other good things are going to happen. No matter if he scores a lot or not, our team is going to win.”

Oklahoma City has lost two straight games after going 5-0 to begin the playoffs, but star point guard Shea Gilgeous-Alexander believes his team can return to form in Game 4.

“I think we can be sharper on both ends of the floor, in terms of 50-50 balls and communication,” he said. “I think we’re trying to do the right thing. I just think that execution and focus, those two areas, is where we can really take a step.”

Gilgeous-Alexander, who finished as the league MVP runner-up, had 31 points and 10 rebounds in Game 3. Jalen Williams added 16 points, while Chet Holmgren and Isaiah Joe added 13 points apiece.

The 7-foot-1 Holmgren is 3-for-13 (23.1 percent) from 3-point range in the series after shooting 37.0 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season.

Oklahoma City was outrebounded 15-6 on the offensive glass Saturday and may need to make some minor adjustments ahead of Game 4.

Daigneault suggested after Saturday’s loss that he may put Holmgren and 6-foot-10 Jaylin Williams on the floor together more in Game 4 after it worked well in the series’ first two games.

“It’s given us a nice rim presence, a nice rebounding presence,” Daigneault said. “The way they defend us, it doesn’t really alter us much offensively. We’re able to stay in character.”

–Field Level Media

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