Oklahoma City Thunder Stamp Authority, Crush Dallas Mavericks in Playoff Opener

HomeSports NewsOklahoma City Thunder Stamp Authority, Crush Dallas Mavericks in Playoff Opener

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s long-range shooting blitzkrieg overwhelmed the Dallas Mavericks 117-95 in Tuesday’s Game 1, a reminder to all why this upstart OKC squad stunned the NBA by seizing the Western Conference’s top playoff seed.

As the raucous Paycom Center crowd reached deafening decibels, the Thunder’s second-half triple onslaught flooded the Mavericks. OKC poured in a torrent of 16 threes, burying Dallas under a barrage from every angle imaginable on the three-point arc.

It was a performance emblematic of the sharpshooting prowess that propelled Oklahoma City’s shockingly meteoric rise this season. The Thunder’s 38.9% three-point clip paced the entire league, a key catalyst for the youngest top-seeded group in NBA history scaling the West’s summit.

Skeptics had circled these playoffs as the stage where OKC’s greenhorn status would finally catch up to them under the lights. And it seemed that reckoning was nigh when Dallas’ All-Star backcourt duo of Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving sparked a 12-4 run to start the third, whittling the Thunder’s lead down to a solitary point.

But just as quickly as that ominous dark cloud appeared on the horizon, the Thunder scattered the shadows with a searing three-point supernova that left the Mavericks scorched.

The ball whipped around OKC’s perimeter with a ferocity and purpose belying the tender age of these upstarts. Whether off driving kicks or crisp swing passes, Thunder gunners continued spattering the twine with a seamless barrage of triples from all rounds of the cylinder.

Six Thunder threes splashed through the nets in the third period alone after a timeout regrouped the hosts. Oklahoma City compiled a franchise playoff record 29 dimes, assisting on each of those 16 threes in a passing exhibition of historic proportions.

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“It’s a muscle we’ve built at this point. We’ve had to endure a lot of those situations during the regular season,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “I think it comes from respect for the opponent. We know this is a heavyweight matchup.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander spearheaded the three-point onslaught, the All-NBA guard pouring in 29 points. At the peak of OKC’s deluge, SGA drilled a pair of cold-blooded, demoralizing step-back triples to slam the door on any murmurs of a Dallas rally.

But Gilgeous-Alexander had plenty of gunners join the downtown tanking party. Reserve marksman Isaiah Joe and rookie Cason Wallace both confidently stroked multiple threes from the corners and wings.

The outside onslaught never abated even when Gilgeous-Alexander secured a brief rest on the bench as second-year swingman Jalen Williams overcame early struggles to shoulder 10 fourth-quarter points, helping ice the blowout.

“I just thought our rhythm and pacing in the second half was elite,” said Daigneault. “Really intelligent attacks, unbelievable ball movement and taking exactly what the defense gave us.”

For the beleaguered Mavericks, Oklahoma City’s downpour was a monsoon without shelter from the start. The free-flowing offensive style that served Dallas so well in its opening-round defeat of the Clippers proved antithetical against the Thunder’s merciless gunners.

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Superstar Luka Dončić never found his groove, clearly hobbled by the knee injury suffered on a cringe-worthy collision with LA’s Terance Mann. The versatile Slovenian lacked his typical burst and shiftiness, struggling to create separation for his patented step-backs.

When Dončić did finally drain his only triple in the waning minutes of the first half, the visible look of relief painted across his face said it all. He finished just 1-of-8 from distance on his way to an inefficient 19-point outing.

“Who cares? We lost. We just gotta move on to the next one,” said Dončić. “I gotta be better. We gotta be better.”

Dončić’s stagnation had everything to do with Oklahoma City’s disciplined defensive gameplan. The Thunder’s swarming rotations met the Dallas superstar at every pivot, refusing to surrender driving lanes while confidently chasing over screens to curtail his airspace.

Rookie center Chet Holmgren was a menacing presence, utilizing his preposterous 7’6″ wingspan to smother Dončić’s every move at the point of attack. Whether hedging to cut off penetration or lingering as a lurking pterodactyl in drop coverage, Holmgren’s length proved suffocating.

Dončić never found a rhythm as a lob-hunting pick-and-roll savant, whiffing on each of his handful of attempted alley-oop lobs to cutting big men. Holmgren’s Condor arms seemed to shrink the actual court geometry whenever Dallas probed inside.

“I’m just trying to do whatever I can to make it as hard as possible,” said Holmgren. “It sounds like I’m trying to dumb it down for you, but I’m really not. That’s all it is – just be as active as I can.”

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The Mavericks managed only five points scored on rolls to the cup all night long, evidence of OKC’s dominance neutralizing Dončić’s wizardry in spread pick-and-roll.

Dallas’ needy supporting cast offered little relief from their iso-centric offensive approach. Tim Hardaway Jr continued his lengthy postseason cold spell. Sharpshooter Maxi Kleber missed the contest entirely through injury, and fill-in Josh Green cooled after a brief hot start.

Each time Dončić would maneuver a defensively-scrambled Thunder rotation to produce an open corner kick for Green, the young wing’s shots rimmed out – further sapping Dallas’ already tenuous belief against OKC’s impassable three-point flood.

“When you have a great rim protector like Chet out there, he’s gonna make things really difficult,” said Irving. “We had a lot of opportunities to make plays inside, we just weren’t successful enough.”

Kidd waved the white flag with 5:14 remaining, clearing his starters as the Thunder put the final touches on a 22-point thrashing. If Dallas cannot muster sustainable interior scoring while mitigating OKC’s triple flurries, these confident Thunder appear primed to keep soaking the Mavericks deeper into an uphill climb.

Game 2 tips Thursday night in Oklahoma City. The series then shifts to Dallas for Games 3 and 4 over the weekend. Buckle up, NBA fans – this throwback Texas-Oklahoma clash could fast become a rollicking new rivalry for years to come.



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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a seasoned basketball journalist with a passion for the WNBA and NBA. His insightful writing combines commentary and stats, providing comprehensive coverage. Alee sheds light on the overlooked WNBA while championing its players. He also delivers in-depth NBA analysis, offering unique perspectives on trades, drafts, and league dynamics. With exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes access, Alee gives readers an unparalleled look into the lives of basketball's biggest stars.

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