PJ Washington leads Mavs to West Finals with win over Thunder

PJ Washington leads Mavs to West Finals with win over Thunder
PJ Washington leads Mavs to West Finals with win over Thunder

Dallas, May 19 (BNA): Kyrie Irving probably wondered if his uncanny run of closeout victories without a loss in his career was finally near an end.

The streak lives, and the Dallas Mavericks are through to the Western Conference semifinals for the second time in three seasons.

PJ Washington Jr. made two free throws before an intentional miss with 2.5 seconds left as the Mavs rallied from 17 points down in the second half for a 117-116 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder to finish the second-round series Saturday night, according to to the Accossiated Press (AP).

The Mavericks wrapped up the series in Game 6 at home against the top-seeded Thunder, just as they did in the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Dallas which trailed by 17 early in the third quarter and by nine early in the fourth will start the West finals at the Denver-Minnesota winner on Wednesday night.

Washington was fouled by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on a 3-point attempt after Chet Holmgren put the Thunder in front 116-115 with a dunk on an assist from his star guard with 20 seconds remaining.

Luka Doncic, who had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his fourth triple-double this postseason, worked his way to the basket in the final seconds before passing to Washington in the corner. Washington pump-faked to get Gilgeous-Alexander in the air and the whistle blew as the shot fell short.

Oklahoma City challenged the call, but replay showed Gilgeous-Alexander making contact with Washington’s arm as he went up to shoot.

After making the first two free throws to put Dallas in front, Washington missed on purpose with the Thunder out of timeouts after the challenge. Holmgren passed to Jalen Williams, whose desperation shot from well behind half court wasn’t close.

The final sequence capped a riveting fourth quarter with five lead changes and two ties in the final five minutes after the Thunder led for all but one minute until then.

Irving and Derrick Jones Jr. scored 22 points apiece for Dallas. It was the second consecutive game with a playoff career high for Jones.

Washington the second-leading scorer for Dallas in this series, ahead of Irving didn’t have a point until the fourth quarter. He scored nine, with tying and go-ahead 3s before the winning free throws.

Doncic didn’t have Irving in leading the Mavs to the West finals in 2022, when Dallas lost to defending champion Golden State in five games.

The first two months of the Doncic-Irving pairing after the blockbuster deal last year were a doubt for the players now with 13 All-Star appearances between them. More trade-deadline moves this year from general manager Nico Harrison worked this time.

The Mavericks finished 24-9 to rise to fifth in the West and defeated the Clippers in the first round with the same sequence of wins and losses that beat Oklahoma City.

The Thunder lost four out of five games following a 5-0 start to the playoffs.

Led by the MVP runner-up in Gilgeous-Alexander and two more key pieces of a young core in Williams and Holmgren, Oklahoma City tied defending champion Denver for the best record in the West at 57-25.

Williams had 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists as the Thunder were you. Holmgren scored 21.

Just two seasons ago, the Thunder finished 24-58 in a second consecutive year of fewer than 25 victories.

Daigneault’s playoff debut came in his fourth season, and the first-round sweep of New Orleans was the franchise’s first series victory since reaching the West finals in 2016.


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