OKC Thunder Stifle Mavs to Win Game 1

Just as the Boston Celtics did in the first game of the night, the Oklahoma City Thunder showed why they finished the season as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference in their convincing win over the Dallas Mavericks.

The Thunder controlled Game 1 from the outset and led by as many as 25 points en route to a 117-95 win. On the other side, Dallas struggled to generate offense and its largest lead was just three points.

The game was tied at 23 after 12 minutes, but by halftime OKC’s lead expanded to 10. Dallas made a charge to start the second half and cut the deficit to two points with a little over six minutes remaining in the third quarter, but the Thunder went on an 11-2 run to push the lead back to double-digits.

Kyrie Irving scored 20 points (7-of-14) and Luka Doncic finished with 19 points while shooting 6-of-19 from the field. While Doncic is dealing with a knee injury, the superstar didn’t want to focus on his potential limitations following the loss.

“Who cares? We lost,” Doncic said. “Just gotta move onto the next one. I’ve gotta be better. We’ve gotta be better. We gotta focus. They’re a great team, a great defensive team, so it’s not going to be easy at all.”

For the Thunder, four of their starters posted a +/- of +15 or better. MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put up 29/9/9, Chet Holmgren contributed 19 points and was a menace defensively — blocking three shots and making Dallas’ night difficult from the outset — and Jalen Williams finished with 18 points.

“It’s where we hang our hat every night,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Especially this late in the season, we know that if we want to win basketball games, that it’s gonna start on that end (defense). Obviously we have some really talented players on that end of the floor, but we also like to do it together and not just rely on those guys.”

For Dallas to win Game 2, Doncic and Irving will have to find a way to score far more points. And, with Doncic nursing a knee injury, the onus may be on Irving to carry the load.