Sports

Mavericks’ second-half comeback stuns Thunder; Dallas advances to conference finals

The Dallas Mavericks needed to dig deep in the second half of their Game 6 NBA playoffs game against the Oklahoma City Thunder after going down 16 points and their upstart opponents looking to force a Game 7.

And they did just that, even as the Thunder pushed the gap to 17 points early in the third quarter.

P.J. Washington made two free throws to put the Mavericks up 117-116 with 2.5 seconds left and Dallas survived a last-second heave after he missed the final free throw on purpose.

PJ Washington drives to the hole

Mavericks forward P.J. Washington works to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the second half of Game 6 of the second-round playoff series on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Mavericks won the series 4-2 and earned a berth into the Western Conference Finals for the first time since the 2021-22 season.

“Being down 17 in a closeout game isn’t a position you want to be in,” Mavericks star Kyrie Irving said. “But that’s where we found ourselves. We had to respond the way we’ve been responding all season.”

Irving finished with 22 points and three assists. He’s now 14-0 in closeout playoff games.

Luka Doncic finished with a triple-double. He had 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He found Washington in the corner for a 3-point attempt. Washington pump faked Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and leaned into him to draw the foul.

The Thunder challenged the call but to no avail.

PAUL PIERCE HOSPITALIZED AFTER GRUESOME, BLOODY FINGER INJURY

Chet Holmgren walks off the court

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren walks off the court after the Mavericks game, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

“Obviously, if I had the moment back I wouldn’t have fouled him,” said Gilgeous-Alexander, who finished with a game-high 36 points. “I would have just let him miss the shot. You wish you would take the moment back. Just have to learn from it, and I will.”

The Thunder were out of timeouts after losing the challenge, leading to Washington’s purposeful miss at the end of his free-throw sequence.

“If it was a clear-as-day foul, I obviously wouldn’t have challenged it and held the timeout,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “Even if you advance the ball with 2.5 seconds at a deficit, your chances are very low.”

Washington, who was leading the team in points through the series, didn’t have a point until the fourth quarter. He had nine points and five rebounds.

Luka Doncic celebrates

Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic celebrates after sinking a basket in the second half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Dallas.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Dallas will await the winner of the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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