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MX News Update 2024

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The Thunder smother Luka Doncic’s slump to earn the Game 1 win

OKLAHOMA CITY – Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic was reluctant to discuss the extenuating circumstances involved in his struggles during Tuesday’s 117-95 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Doncic, dealing with a sprained right knee and the suffocating defense of Oklahoma City’s Lu Dort, was held to 19 points on 6-for-19 shooting, snapping his streak of 24 consecutive playoff games with at least 20 points .

“Who cares? We lost,” Doncic said when asked about the factors involved in his night off. “I just have to move on to the next one. I have to be better. We have to be better. We have to focus. They are a great team, a great defensive team, so it won’t be easy at all.”

Doncic, the NBA’s scoring leader who sprained his knee early in Game 3 of the Mavericks’ first-round series against the LA Clippers, is in a shooting slump. He fell below 40% from the floor before the postseason.

He was 1 of 8 from 3-point range on Tuesday as the Mavericks fell to 0-5 in Game 1s under coach Jason Kidd, dropping Doncic to 22.7% from beyond the arc during these playoffs. That includes 5 of 35 in the past four games, the worst percentage (14.3) over a four-game postseason stretch with at least 30 attempts in NBA history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“He looked good to 3,” Kidd said. “So we have to help him, get Dort off him a little bit more.”

The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s performance of 29 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, rolled to their fifth straight victory to open the playoffs.

Oklahoma City is allowing 90.6 points per game in the playoffs, the fewest in five games by any team since the 2016 San Antonio Spurs. The defense is led by Dort and rookie center Chet Holmgren, who have three blocks and held the Mavericks to 5-of-15 shooting on shots he contested. He also scored 19 points.

“This is 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, we have to start with that goal. 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.”

The Mavericks scored a point in the third quarter, when Kyrie Irving appeared poised to seize control of the game, as he had done several times in the first round, to pull within a point. Oklahoma City responded by scoring on its next six possessions, including five three-pointers, to push the lead back to double digits.

“We have to put together a complete game against this young OKC team because they have an endless amount of energy,” said Irving, who finished with 20 points. “They will never stop attacking.”

Dallas was never in danger again and the Mavericks pulled their starters with 5:14 left when they trailed by 22.

“It’s a muscle we’ve built at this point,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said of the poise the youngest team in NBA history showed to win a playoff series. “I think a lot of it comes from respect for the opponent, but we know this is a heavyweight match. It’s just unrealistic to think that you’re going to play games or a series where they don’t land punches. It’s just unrealistic. long series. We have to be ready for a better version of it.”