NBA playoffs: Thunder 'endure early punches,' rally past Mavericks in Game 4


May 14 (UPI) -- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 22 points in the second half and the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a 14-point deficit to rally past the Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinals series.

Gilgeous-Alexander totaled 34 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the 100-96 triumph Monday at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The game featured just two lead changes and was tied three times.

"I thought our ability just to endure the early punches, and just not able to get back in the game for a long time, our ability to endure that was big time," Thunder coach Mark Daigneault told reporters. "In the fourth, the offense turned for us."

Center Chet Holmgren and forward Luguentz Dort scored 18 and 17 points, respectively, to help the Thunder tie the series 2-2.

"I'm not going to try to downplay it at all," Holmgren said. "There was a lot of pressure to win that game. You never want to be in a 3-1 (series deficit) situation. It's obviously a lot better to be 2-2 and going home to play a three-game series with home-court advantage."

Luka Doncic recorded an 18-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double, but made just 6 of 20 shot attempts in the loss. Fellow Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving totaled nine points and made 4 of 11 attempts. The Mavericks also made just 52.2% of their free throws, compared to the Thunder's 95.8% clip from the foul line.

"I think we played great defense," Doncic said. "It was a lot of details, missing free throws, offensive rebounds. You work hard for 24 seconds and give up offensive rebounds, it's kinda tough. Overall, we played great defense. It just wasn't enough."

The Thunder took the lead twice over the first two minutes. The Mavericks responded with a 15-2 run and carried a 30-20 lead into the second quarter. They held onto that lead until the fourth quarter.

The Mavericks outscored the Thunder 24-23 in the second quarter and led 54-43 at halftime. Gilgeous-Alexander scored a dozen over the next 12 minutes, when the Thunder held a 22-15 scoring advantage.

The Thunder, who ended the third on a 9-2 run, still trailed 69-65 to start the fourth. The Mavericks continued to hold off their foes until allowing a 14-4 run. That fourth-quarter surge gave the Thunder an 89-86 edge with 3:24 remaining and they never trailed again.

The Thunder outscored the Mavericks 35-27 over the final 12 minutes. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 10 in the fourth quarter. Holmgren made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:24 remaining, giving the Thunder their final advantage. Dort made another shot from downtown about 70 seconds later to keep the Thunder ahead. The Mavericks cut the deficit to one several times down the stretch, but could not pull ahead.

Doncic and Irving combined to make just 4 of 14 shots and were 0 of 4 from 3-point range in the second half.

"They are so focused on us," Doncic said of Thunder defenders. "They collapse the paint very well. When we drive it, they collapse the paint with almost five guys. That's been difficult for us. We just have to find the open teammates."

The top-seeded Thunder will host the No. 5 Mavericks at 9:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday in Oklahoma City. Game 6 will be Saturday in Dallas. Game 7, if necessary, will be Monday in Oklahoma City.

The winner of the series will face the No. 2 Denver Nuggets or No. 3 Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference finals. That series, which is tied 2-2, will continue when the Nuggets host the Timberwolves in Game 5 at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday in Denver.