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

The Oklahoma City Thunder will be playing with the threat of a loss ending their season when they face the Dallas Mavericks in Saturday's Game 6.
May 15, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2)
May 15, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS — As the Dallas Mavericks prepare for a crucial Game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, there is an understanding they are facing a team not ready to end their season.

“Our mood won’t change, our mentality won’t change,” said Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has averaged 31.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 7.2 assists in the series. “It’s one game at a time. We wanted to win (Game 5) as badly as we’re going to want to win the next game.”

May 15, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2)
May 15, 2024; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Chet Holmgren is focused on making the proper reads and maintaining confidence under pressure. While he's made a significant defensive impact protecting the paint, he's struggled to find a rhythm offensively this series, averaging 14.8 points. Despite a tough loss in Game 5, Holmgren believes the team took significant strides on the offensive end.

“Making the right reads,” Holmgren said. “Throughout the whole game, we were making the right plays; we just weren’t converting. Even the stats showed that. We had low turnovers and a high number of potential assists, the highest number we’ve had all playoffs. If we make those shots, we’re talking about how good we executed and made the right play. We just didn’t get those shots, so it’s a different story, obviously.”

As the Thunder face the challenge of Game 6, Holmgren emphasizes the importance of execution over excuses. There has been speculation about Oklahoma City's approach leading to the right shots but not having the execution necessary for the results to translate to a victory.

“Losing for any reason isn’t fun. It doesn’t matter if you execute great or poorly; a loss is a loss," Holmgren said. "We have to come back, be better, and try to win at the end of the day. There are no excuses for losing. You lost because you lost, not because of this or that. We just have to turn it around.”

Holmgren acknowledges that the Mavericks’ defensive strategy has opened up opportunities for 3-point shots but notes many facets to the series.

“It’s definitely not that simple as the series unfolds. There are a lot of things that go into it," Holmgren said. "That’s just one part of the battle in the series. It’s one of the things Dallas is doing, but it’s not the only thing.”

Holmgren remained steadfast in his approach when asked about the pressure of playing a pivotal game in the series. He believes it is important not to read too much into the situation. Oklahoma City has to play, knowing a loss will be a season-ending outcome.

“We have to go out there and be confident, whether we’re trying to eliminate them or the series is still tied," Holmgren said. "It doesn’t matter. We have to play confidently, no matter the situation.”

Reflecting on his first NBA playoffs experience, Holmgren highlights the intensity and competitiveness of postseason play as opposed to there being a specific lesson he's learned.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t expect anything less. The playoffs are the highest level of basketball in the world, with guys who are really competitive and driven," Holmgren said. "Everybody wants to win; nobody wants to just lay it down and call it a season. Everybody’s getting after it, and the officials are letting us play a little bit, which leads to a physical, hard-fought game.”

Facing his first elimination game, Holmgren remains resolute in his commitment to giving his all. There's nothing to save when competing since it's as much of a must-win game as it gets.

“We had an elimination game last series, obviously. Elimination games are the hardest, no matter what side you’re on," Holmgren said. "We just have to go and lay it all out there, understanding that a loss means our season’s done. We shouldn’t hold anything back. We should go out there and give it our all.”

Holmgren has learned valuable lessons from his initial playoff run, understanding each game's unpredictability and high stakes.

“I wouldn’t say it’s any one single thing, but I’ve definitely learned that nothing’s guaranteed. Anything can happen—a single call, a twisted ankle, a missed shot, or an offensive rebound can change the course of your season. You really have to go out there and give it your all to make sure those singular plays go in your direction.”

As the Thunder gear up for Game 6, Holmgren’s insights and determination will be crucial in their effort to extend the series and keep their playoff hopes alive.

READ MORE: Dallas Mavericks Exclusive: Derrick Jones Jr. Loving Role Playing 'Natural Position'

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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.