Thunder dominate the Dallas Mavericks in game 1

Nicholas Borghini

Contributing Writer

The Oklahoma City Thunder rolled the Dallas Mavericks 117-95, Tuesday, in the first game of the Western Conference semifinals during the 2024 NBA playoffs.

Thunder superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander backs down NBA champion Kyrie Irving in game 1. (NATE BILLINGS/AP PHOTO)

The Thunder, which swept the New Orleans Pelicans in round 1, won three out of four games against the Mavericks this season. 

Oklahoma City’s February loss against Dallas was their worst of the season, with a point differential of 35. This happened right after the Mavericks traded for P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford, adding depth to their roster. 

Dallas won 21 of their last 30 regular season games, the third-best record in the NBA after the trade deadline, aided by their new bruisers. They made it to the Western Conference Semifinals after defeating the Los Angeles Clippers in six games.

“Last year we could only do the layup line,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd told ESPN after the Mavericks shattered the Clippers with 13 dunks in Game 3 of their playoff series. “This year we could participate in a dunk contest.”

This is the first time the Thunder and Mavericks are meeting in the playoffs since 2016 when Oklahoma City beat Dallas 4-1. The Thunder will have to counter the Maverick’s increased power in the paint if they want to repeat history.

Both teams are led by MVP candidates, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luka Dončić, who both averaged over 30 points this season. Thunder guard Luguentz Dort will likely be guarding Dončić after he shut down the Pelican’s mid-range sniper Brandon Ingram in round 1.

Oklahoma City will still have to find a solution to eight-time All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who led the Mavericks with 30 points in their Game 6 victory against the Clippers. He will likely be guarded by nimble defender Jalen Williams or Gilgeous-Alexander, who averaged two steals per game this season.

Three-point shooting will be key during this series, with the Thunder having the best three-point percentage in the league with 13.3 made threes per game at 38.9% compared to the Maverick’s 14.6 threes per game at 36.9%. Teams with more made three-pointers than their opponent have won over 67% of games in the previous four postseasons.

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