Home » Aussie duo’s NBA title dream alive, OKC’s dashed as Thunder face big Giddey call after heartbreak

Aussie duo’s NBA title dream alive, OKC’s dashed as Thunder face big Giddey call after heartbreak

Aussie duo’s NBA title dream alive, OKC’s dashed as Thunder face big Giddey call after heartbreak

The Dallas Mavericks are through to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in three seasons after eliminating the Oklahoma City Thunder following an epic Game 6 victory.

The Mavericks were made to fight to the final second, with a pair of clutch free throws from P.J. Washington — one of the team’s key trade deadline acquisitions — seeing Dallas home 117-116.

It was heartbreak for the Thunder, the youngest team in NBA history to win an NBA playoffs series, and could be Josh Giddey’s final game in Oklahoma City colours as the team faces a crucial call in the offseason on the Australian guard.

Giddey, who started off the bench for the first time in his career in the final two games of the series, will become extension eligible this summer.

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Josh Giddey (right) is extension eligible this summer. Sam Hodde/Getty Images/AFP
Josh Giddey (right) is extension eligible this summer. Sam Hodde/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP

Oklahoma City’s loss means Dallas will face either Denver or Minnesota next round, with Australian duo Josh Green and Dante Exum still in the NBA playoffs race.

Exum though once again did not see any playing time on Sunday while Green had six points, one steal, an assist and two rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench.

The Thunder made a fast start to Game 6 and were able to generate fastbreak opportunities with their disruptive defence, with Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams doubling Luka Doncic and forcing him into a turnover.

That turned into a Williams dunk on the other end, with active hands from Lu Dort sparking another turnover that later led to his first 3-pointer of the night and an early 13-4 OKC lead.

It was as good a start as the Thunder could have asked for on the road, although it didn’t take long for Doncic to heat up with two quick deep 3-pointers as Dallas closed the gap.

Oklahoma City’s offence, meanwhile, was starting to cool down as the Thunder, having shot 6-for-6 from the field to start the game, then went 2-for-9.

Green and Giddey both started off the bench and saw plenty of each other early in the opening quarter, with Green hunting the fellow Australian and having success off the dribble, first scoring over him and then later drawing a foul.

The Mavericks looked to be closing the quarter with momentum as Jaden Hardy attacked Holmgren to earn the and-1, only for Williams to put an exclamation mark on the period for OKC with a deep buzzer beater.

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That put the Thunder 30-23 ahead after a first quarter which saw the Mavericks turn the ball over six times, with Oklahoma City scoring 11 points off those turnovers.

Irving made it seven turnovers early in the second quarter as he was pressured into a poor pass by rookie Cason Wallace, who has been a defensive revelation in his post-season debut.

Later in the quarter, two straight Giddey offensive rebounds gifted the Thunder successive possessions but they were unable to capitalise on either, with the Mavericks instead scoring two quick field goals to prompt OKC coach Mark Daigneault to call a timeout.

Oklahoma City still had a 38-32 lead at that point, with over seven minutes left in the quarter.

The timeout did little to stop the Thunder from missing open looks while Doncic threaded the needle with three defenders around him, finding Derrick Jones Jr. for an emphatic dunk.

Green then drained a 3-pointer to cap off a 10-0 Mavericks run that trimmed the Thunder’s lead to 38-37.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander made some crucial buckets. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

A Doncic 3-pointer shortly after gave Dallas a 42-40 lead as Oklahoma City’s offence continued to splutter, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander the only Thunder player to make a field goal in the first eight minutes of the quarter.

That was until Gilgeous-Alexander found Holmgren for a dunk that sparked a 12-2 Thunder run in the space of two-and-a-half minutes, although it was Dallas turnovers that really got the OKC offence going.

First it was a bad pass from Irving that ended with an Isaiah Joe dunk while a Daniel Gafford turnover soon after then saw Joe get to his spot and drain a 3-pointer.

The Thunder led 53-44 at that stage and pushed further ahead to take a 64-48 halftime lead — their biggest of the game — on the back of their defensive energy and intensity to end the period.

Dallas committed another six turnovers in the second quarter, with Oklahoma City again making the Mavs pay with 12 points off those turnovers.

Unlike Game 5, where they shot 10-for-40 from 3-point range, the Thunder’s outside shooting was also much-improved as they matched that figure (10-for-24) in the first half alone.

All five starters made a 3-pointer in the first half, with Gilgeous-Alexander (21 points) the leading scorer for OKC while Doncic had 15 points for Dallas.

Running mate Irving was struggling again to get anything going, recording just four points in the first half, having averaged only 14.4 across the series heading into Game 6.

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For as good as he had looked in various stages this series, Wallace’s inexperienced showed up in a rough 90-second stretch in the third quarter as back-to-back turnovers from the rookie and a defensive breakdown from the Thunder saw Dallas go on a 9-0 run.

That extended out to a 13-0 run as Oklahoma City continued to struggle making shots, eventually stopping the run with a Williams technical free throw.

Still, OKC’s lead was only 78-73 at that point and while everything seemed to be going against the Thunder, they had one big win as Daigneault successfully challenged what would have been a fifth foul against Dort.

Gilgeous-Alexander took over late in the quarter with seven points in less than a minute to put OKC ahead 88-77, with a late Jones Jr. 3-pointer seeing Dallas close the gap to 90-83 entering the final quarter.

That buffer quickly evaporated early in the fourth as a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from Irving reduced the Thunder’s lead to 97-95 with just over seven minutes left in regulation.

P.J. Washington then drained a corner 3-pointer — his first bucket of the game — to tie the game at 105-all before a Doncic fadeaway put the Mavs ahead 107-105.

It was the first time Dallas had been in front since leading 42-41 with four minutes left in the second quarter.

The Mavericks won a thriller. Sam Hodde/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP

It was a short-lived lead as the Mavs doubled Gilgeous-Alexander, leaving Williams open to knock down an uncontested 3-pointer, although Irving answered back with a 3 of his own.

A Gilgeous-Alexander bucket then tied the game once more before another clutch Washington 3-pointer and Jones Jr. fadeaway jumper put the Mavs ahead 115-110.

Just as the Thunder looked to be on the brink, their main man came up big once again as Gilgeous-Alexander drained a quick deep 3-pointer in response.

That reduced Dallas’ lead to 115-113 entering the final 30 seconds before a foul and subsequent Gilgeous-Alexander free throw, along with a Holmgren dunk, put OKC ahead 116-115.

But Dallas had the last say as Gilgeous-Alexander sent Washington to the free throw line with a foul on a 3-point attempt and 2.1 seconds left on the clock.

Washington made two of three free throws and with no timeouts left, Williams attempted a prayer 3-point attempt that came up short as Oklahoma City was knocked out.

Washington actually was the only Dallas starter not to finish in double figures with nine points while Doncic (29 points) topped the scoring for the Mavs alongside 22 from both Irving and Jones Jr.

Rookie big man Dereck Lively II, meanwhile, was huge off the bench with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Gilgeous-Alexander led the way for the Thunder with 36 points in defeat while all five of Oklahoma City’s starters finished on double figures, including 22 and 21 from Williams and Holmgren respectively.