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

With the chance to advance to the Western Conference Finals on the line, the Dallas Mavericks pulled through with a 117-116 victory in Game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
May 18, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts against the
May 18, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts against the / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS — With the chance to advance to the Western Conference Finals on the line, the Dallas Mavericks pulled through with a 117-116 victory in Game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, winning the series 4-2.

Led by a trio of 20-point scorers and another standout display from Dereck Lively II, the Mavericks pulled out a victory. Luka Doncic totaled 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists for his third consecutive triple-double. Kyrie Irving and Derrick Jones Jr. scored 22 points respectively. Lively achieved a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

May 18, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts against the
May 18, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts against the / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Despite receiving an efficient 36 points and eight assists from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, it wasn't enough for the Thunder. Jalen Williams had a near triple-double with 22 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Chet Holmgren added 21 points and three rebounds. The rest of the starting lineup scored in double figures, but Oklahoma City received only 15 bench points.

The Thunder aggressively blitzed Doncic early, even when Holmgren was involved in the action. This disrupted Dallas' offense early, resulting in turnovers and empty possessions proving problematic. The momentum was all in the Thunder's favor, leading 14-3 at one point, with P.J. Washington getting into foul trouble shortly after.

"We won the series. That's what matters in the end," Doncic said. "We won 4-2, [even though] we didn't have home advantage. It's great that we won, but just struggles are going to come. You got to stay positive and keep hooping."

Doncic used a spin move into a step-back 3-pointer with Dort aggressively guarding him early in possession and hit the shot. A few possessions later, Irving attacked downhill for a short-range pull-up jumper against Joe. Doncic attacked the gap out of pick-and-roll before Gafford's seal of Dort forced Holmgren to commit to switching after initially being in drop, freeing up Doncic to get back behind the arc for another 3-point make.

It wasn't just the superstars who got it going offensively for the Mavericks. Josh Green even attacked a closeout using a spin move into a jump shot. Dallas suddenly cut the deficit to only trailing 18-16 midway through the period.

Hardy was relied on in the second unit again after being inserted into the rotation for the first time this postseason in Game 5. He began with an impressive pick-and-roll sequence against a double team to find Lively for a dunk. However, it proved to be a mixed bag. He went from getting stifled by Dort for a poor late clock shot.

After a 40-foot buzzer-beater from Williams after Hardy missed a free throw for a potetial and-one after his impressive finish through contact against Holmgren's rim protection, the Mavericks faced a 30-23 deficit at the end of the opening period. Dallas was limited by early strong shooting from Oklahoma City while turning it over and having discombobulated possessions.

Shortly after Doncic was called for a technical foul, Holmgren picked up a third personal foul, putting him in foul trouble with a significant amount of time left before halftime. With frequent foul calls going against Dallas and Doncic not getting the calls he felt he deserved, there was a clear impact the officiating crew had on the team's execution.

The momentum was in Oklahoma City's favor in the second quarter, with Gilgeous-Alexander getting to his spots for short-range jumpers. However, a stretch involving Irving and Doncic attacking in transition helped pull the Mavericks within six points after trailing by an 11-point margin early in the second frame. With the Thunder playing small due to Holmgren's foul trouble, Doncic connected with Jones for a lob to make it a four-point game.

The Thunder brought Holmgren back into the game after the Mavericks' impressive stretch to reduce the deficit. Despite this, Green hit a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game briefly. After a few defensive stops, Doncic hit a go-ahead catch-and-shoot 3-pointer out of a Zoom action, with Oklahoma City not fighting over screens against him, going up 42-40.

Another stretch of frequent turnovers put the Thunder right back into the lead, including a charge call against Doncic, Irving getting a pass stolen, and Doncic being called for a travel. It wasn't until Hardy threw a lob to Gafford by attacking Joe off the catch that Dallas ended a scoring drought. However, Gafford fumbling the ball in the paint led to Joe hitting a transition 3-pointer. Hardy did respond by making a corner 3-pointer, but Gilgeous-Alexander fired right back with one of his own. It was that type of half for Dallas. Holmgren's floater put Oklahoma City back ahead by double figures.

Making matters worse, Gafford helped off the strong side corner, giving up a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer to Jaylin Williams. Joe hit a step-back from deep to make it a 16-point deficit for Dallas entering halftime. Oklahoma City achieved a 23-6 run to this point; Dallas turned it over 11 times compared to three for The Thunder, resulting in a 23-7 disadvantage in points off turnovers. Additionally, the Mavericks gave up 10 made 3-pointers, twice more than they had. Irving was contained to another slow first half with four points on 2-5 shooting overall and two turnovers.

At halftime, the Mavericks had a locker room conversation about the need to cut down on turnovers and to push the pace. The team credits Jones for helping to jumpstart their momentum before managing to control the game to rally back from a significant deficit.

“We talked about the turnovers. That was the first part," Kidd said. "The second part was just the trust and that we had to play faster. We weren’t playing fast enough. Even if they scored, we needed to take the ball out and not look around and walk the ball up. I thought in the start of the third, D. Jones got us off to a great start. Then we worked the game, understanding that we weren’t going to get those 16 points back in two shots."

The Mavericks struggled early in the second half, facing a deficit of as large as 17 points at one point. It wasn't until the team made a significant rallying effort that Dallas forced a long streak of turnovers and blocked a corner 3-pointer, leading to transition scoring chances. Between Irving and Doncic converting from the perimeter followed by Doncic attacking the rim for an and-one, the Mavericks made it a seven-point game with 6:44 left in the third period. It's worth noting, Lively was on the floor for this run, anchoring the defense to successful results.

"It's insane, man, and he's doing this while being a rookie," Doncic said of Lively. "He has some unbelievable potential, and I'm just glad that the Mavs drafted him."

In the second half, the Mavericks deployed more of a zone and toggled between going zone and man to throw off the Thunder's offense. For a team that has made a significant amount of roster changes since the end of last season, the connectivity they've shown has been nothing short of impressive, particularly with 20-year-old Lively anchoring their best defensive stretches.

"Our zone created some missed shots and some turnovers, and we capitalized on the other end," Kidd explained. "Again, being down 16, we knew what we had to do, and we did that to start the third and for pretty much the whole second half.”

Dallas continued to cut into the Thunder's advantage, making it a four-point game after Irving pulled up in transition from mid-range and knocked it down. Oklahoma City responded to close out the period, maintaining a comfortable edge despite some possible momentum-swinging plays from the Mavericks that didn't prove to spark momentum. Gilgeous-Alexander scored repeatedly to have the Thunder ahead by 12 points late in the frame. A 5-0 run by Dallas made it 90-83 before the buzzer. was capped off by Jones converting from the corner.

"I thought the group stayed together, trusted each other, and worked the game to get it down to seven points at the end of the third quarter," Kidd said. "And then it was anybody’s ball game."

After Williams took a tough one-legged jumper and missed it badly, Doncic attacked in transition for a short-range pull-up. Dallas managed to make it a four-point game at this point but gave up an open corner look to Joe, and he made them pay. The Mavericks continued to rally back, tying it up after multiple offensive rebounds from Lively, which led to scoring plays.

With the Thunder's season on the line, they dialed up the execution down the stretch, Using an 8-4 stretch, Oklahoma City broke the tie, with free throw shooting inconsistency holding Dallas back. However, Lively splitting a pair of free throws then Doncic finding Washington for a corner 3-pointer tied it up at 105-105, then Doncic hit a step-back in mid-range to put the Mavericks ahead.

Dallas left Williams open coming out of a timeout, giving up a go-ahead 3-pointer almost immediately. It was a truly hard-fought game, with Irving responding with a make from beyond the arc. Gilgeous-Alexander responded with a short-range jumper but came up empty on his next attempt before Washington drilled a tie-breaking catch-and-shoot look from deep.

"I think he was just waiting for his moment," Irving said of Washington. "He's played well the majority of the series, so we had some confidence in him that eventually he would make some big-time shots and grateful that he knocked them down. Man, that's just pure confidence and belief."

After Irving got blocked on a 3-point attempt, Jones recovered the ball and hit a tough fadeaway over Holmgren's contest in short-range to give Dallas a five-point edge. Still, Gilgeous-Alexander quickly fired back with a pull-up from the perimeter.

A foul away from the play was called on Washington, giving the Thunder a free throw attempt while retaining possession. After Gilgeous-Alexander converted from the free throw line, Dallas was only up by one with 20.7 seconds left to play. He then found Holmgren in the dunker spot for a lob to put Oklahoma City ahead 116-115.

The Mavericks clinched the victory after Gilgeous-Alexander fouled Washington in the corner with 2.1 seconds to play. He made the first two, then intentionally missed the final shot to run the clock out, punching Dallas' ticket to the Western Conference Finals.

"I shouldn't have fouled him. We talk all year about the little things that go into winning games, being disciplined," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It sucks. If I had the moment back, I wouldn't have fouled him. Just let him miss or make the shot."

Looking ahead, the Mavericks will face the winner of the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves series on the road on Wednesday, beginning the team's second Western Conference Finals appearance since 2022.

"Today is about today's game, and tomorrow we'll think about the conference finals," Doncic said. "I think we should all enjoy this, because this, I would say, was a really hard series."

READ MORE: OKC Thunder Ready for 'Hard-Fought' Game 6 Matchup Against Dallas Mavericks

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Grant Afseth

GRANT AFSETH

Grant Afseth is a Dallas Mavericks reporter for MavericksGameday.com and an NBA reporter for NBA Analysis Network. He previously covered the Indiana Pacers and NBA for CNHI's Kokomo Tribune and various NBA teams for USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Follow him on Twitter (@grantafseth), Facebook (@grantgafseth), and YouTube (@grantafseth). You can reach Grant at grantafseth35@gmail.com.