NBA playoffs

‘Aggressive’ Luka Doncic, Mavs grab 3-2 series edge over Thunder


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‘Aggressive’ Luka Doncic, Mavs grab 3-2 series edge over Thunder

SUPERSTARS. Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander moves past Mavericks guard Luka Doncic in Game 5.

Alonzo Adams/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

‘I think you saw his intent,’ says coach Jason Kidd of Mavs star Luka Doncic, who dropped another triple-double despite playing with multiple injuries throughout the playoffs

Luka Doncic finished with 31 points and delivered his second consecutive triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks moved one victory from their second Western Conference finals appearance in three seasons with a 104-92 victory over the host Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, May 15 (Thursday, May 16, Manila time).

The Mavericks hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven, second-round series as they head home for Game 6 on Saturday, May 18.

Doncic, who has been playing with multiple injuries through the course of the playoffs, also had 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

“I think you saw his intent,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “He was aggressive, he was making shots, taking shots, the deep three, being able to get to the basket, playmaking for his bigs and also the wings. And also the trust factor. I thought he did a great job of taking care of the ball, but his intent was to get to the basket and score, and he did that at a high level.”

Derrick Jones Jr. scored 19 points for the Mavericks, and PJ Washington had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the win. Dereck Lively II added 11 points and 10 rebounds off the Dallas bench, while Kyrie Irving added 12 points.

Dallas rebounded after taking a 100-96 defeat in Game 4 on Monday when the Mavericks blew a 14-point, third-quarter lead and an eight-point lead with less than eight minutes to go. The Mavericks are now 4-0 after a loss this postseason.

“It’s just our mentality,” Doncic said. “We know in the last game we played them at home, we let it go. It was our mistakes and they hit shots. In the playoffs, it’s the first to four. You have to win four before they do, so you have to go game by game.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 points and Chet Holmgren added 13 for the top-seeded Thunder, who are now forced to win consecutive games in order to advance. Jalen Williams and Luguentz Dort each scored 12 points for Oklahoma City, which never led after the first quarter.

Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said, “The thing I was encouraged by offensively is that I thought we looked like ourselves stylistically … There were times in Games 2, 3, 4 that I just felt we were in a headlock offensively and jammed up against their defense.

“I thought we were there tonight but maybe missed a couple of plays, missed a couple of shots. I was actually encouraged by the process tonight of improving during the series. I thought defensively we maybe took a step back, and credit them. They did a great job.”

The Mavericks pushed in front just over four minutes into the game and led 24-22 after the first quarter. Dallas was up by as many as 15 points in the first half before settling for a 54-44 lead at the break after shooting 56.1%. Doncic had 17 points in the first two quarters on 7-of-11 shooting.

Gilgeous-Alexander kept Oklahoma City within striking distance by scoring 14 points in the third quarter, but his teammates were only able to contribute 9 points – all from reserves – against a relentless Dallas defense.

Asked what went wrong with the Thunder’s offense, Gilgeous-Alexander said, “Just being in the moment it was hard to tell, but I felt like we played the right way, got a lot of good looks, they just didn’t go in. That’s what it felt like. 

“They make you move the ball, make you make multiple efforts offensively, make you spray the ball. Their bigs are parked down there pretty much the whole game, bump you out. I thought we did a good job of attacking, moving the ball, the looks just really didn’t go in.”

The Mavericks took a 79-67 lead into the fourth quarter after the Thunder briefly pulled within single digits.

Dallas pulled ahead 86-71 on a floater from Doncic with 10:11 remaining, then grabbed its biggest lead of the game to that point at 89-71 on a long three-pointer from Doncic with 9:31 left.

The Thunder used a 10-0 run to pull within 89-81 on a driving layup from Williams. But Dallas got consecutive baskets from Washington for a 95-85 lead with 4:04 on the clock.

Neither team made a field goal for more than two minutes before Dallas went up 99-86 on a fastbreak dunk from Jones with 2:01 to play.

Doncic helped save the day on defense when he blocked Gilgeous-Alexander’s fastbreak layup attempt with 55 seconds left.

“Next year, all-NBA defensive team,” Doncic said with a laugh. “The ball escaped a little bit from him, so that’s why the block (happened).” –

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