Dallas Mavericks Rally To Advance to Western Conference Finals: 3 Game-Changing Plays

The Mavericks came back from down 17 to beat the OKC Thunder in Game 6 at home and advance to their second conference finals appearance in the last three seasons
May 18, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) celebrates with teammates
May 18, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) celebrates with teammates / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 117-116 on Saturday evening to advance to their second Western Conference Finals appearance in the last three seasons. The game was somehow wilder than the 1-point score difference would indicate; OKC took multiple double-digit leads and each time Dallas fought back, culminating in a last-second win for the Mavs.

It wasn't always easy. OKC led the entire first quarter, using a quick 7-2 run over the final two minutes, finishing with a half-court heave by Jalen Williams, to take a 7-point lead heading into the second frame. Lu Dort was hot early, scoring 9 of his 11 points within the first 3:30 of the game, and it felt like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had answers for whatever Dallas was throwing at him all game.

READ MORE: Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks Achieve 17-Point Comeback Win Over OKC Thunder, Clinch WCF Bid

Dallas started to chip away in the second quarter. OKC's lead had grown to 11 before a 15-2 run by Dallas gave them a 2-point lead with 4:43 remaining before halftime. As was a trend all game though, the Thunder turned it on, out-scoring the Mavs 24-6 for the rest of the quarter and taking a 16-point lead into the half. Jason Kidd likely should've called a timeout once the lead first got to 9, but he, and likely many other coaches, probably felt it was too close to halftime to take a timeout. Plus, he had mistakenly used both challenges in the first half. Now they had the daunting task of climbing back into the game.

To start the second half, the Mavericks instantly cut the lead to 10 before OKC pushed it right back to 17. This is where we pick up our plays.

This and-one by Luka started the 13-0 scoring run to get back in the game and cut the lead to 4. It's a tough finish; Dallas was working the 1/5 screen-and-roll in the second half since Lu Dort and Chet Holmgren dealt with foul trouble all game.

A few plays after this, Doncic hit a step-back 3 and Kyrie Irving finally got going with his shot-making, as he had 10 points in this quarter alone. Getting the American Airlines Center back into the game was big and this run started all of that.

Limiting myself to three plays isn't always difficult, but it was in this game. Trying to choose between this Kyrie Irving three, P.J. Washington's first made basket, Derrick Jones Jr.'s turn-around mid-range over Chet Holmgren to beat the shot clock, or Dereck Lively II grabbing rebound after rebound was difficult.

I chose this Irving three, which is as hard of a shot as it gets, because it's the first time in the game that I felt Dallas could win.

Luka Doncic had hit a turn-around jumper from 19 feet to give Dallas their first lead since the second quarter, but Jalen Williams received the ball from a blitzed Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, turned, and knocked down the 3 calmly, giving OKC the lead right back. This was the very next play.

Being in the arena, it felt like the ball was in the air for 10 minutes before falling in. SGA would tie it up on the other end after this, but there a sense of level-headedness from having Irving and Doncic be the two to guide Dallas down the stretch.

This was obviously the biggest talking point of the game and series, but the officials got this call right. Because P.J. Washington continued his shot through SGA hitting the ball and was only hindered once SGA hit his arm, it's a foul. The rulebook says it, the broadcast said it, and it was called on the floor and confirmed on review.

A lot of credit has to go Washington's way. Not only for stepping up and hitting the free throws here and for his big games early in this series, but he dealt with foul trouble in the first half and only played 5 minutes. He played the entire second half and didn't make his first field goal until there were 4 minutes left in the game. He finished with 9 points.

You can tell he loves playing for his hometown team and the fanbase loves him just as much. His trade-deadline acquisition was as franchise-altering of a trade as they could've made for getting a "role player."

This was an incredible game. I had always wanted to go to an NBA Playoff game and I don't live in Texas, so I flew in from out of town to be in the AAC for the first time in nine years. I couldn't have asked for a better crowd, a better atmosphere, or a better game.

Luka Doncic did Luka Doncic things, finishing with 29 points, 10 points, and 10 assists, while shooting 4/6 from 3. He and Kyrie Irving, who added 22 points, took control in the second half and made shots when Dallas needed them to make shots. Irving moves to 14-0 in close-out games.

Derrick Jones Jr. finished with a playoff career-high in points for the third straight game, this time having 22 points and 4 rebounds. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Thunder put SGA on him after starting him on P.J. Washington to start the series, but made the switch after Washington had big scoring games, then Jones has big scoring games.

That isn't to discredit Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was just incredible in this game. He was so smooth and when he is in a rhythm, he's impossible to stop. Seeing him in person was a treat.

It's crazy that I've hardly mentioned Dereck Lively II's name to this point. For a rookie to come out in a close-out game and have 12 points and 15 rebounds is incredible. His impact was so big that OKC went with the double-big lineup of Jaylin Williams and Chet Holmgren to finish a game for the first time this series.

Dallas will play the winner of Game 7 between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.

READ MORE: Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving React To ESPN's Grade For Irving Trade Following Game 6

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Austin Veazey

AUSTIN VEAZEY

Austin Veazey joined NoleGameday as the Lead Basketball Writer in 2019, while contributing as a football writer, and started as editor for MavericksGameday in 2024. Veazey was a Florida State Men’s Basketball Manager from 2016-2019. Follow Austin on Twitter at @EasyVeazeyNG