Young Thunder look mature, sharp beating Mavericks by 22 to take Game 1

Dallas Mavericks v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One
Dallas Mavericks v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One

The knock on the Thunder coming into the playoffs — and really, all season long — is that they are too young. Critics argued they lacked the maturity and would fold in the biggest moments. Except, that didn’t happen in the regular season when 25-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played like an MVP and led them to the No. 1 seed in the West, plus the team had a top 10 clutch net rating (+10.7). It wasn’t an issue in the first round of the playoffs when the Thunder swept the Pelicans.

And it wasn’t an issue as the Thunder rolled the more experienced Luka Doncic and the Mavericks 117-95 in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series.

Gilgeous-Alexander looked every bit the MVP Finalist with 29 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

The Thunder now lead the series 1-0 with Game 2 Thursday night in Oklahoma City.

While the offense clicked, defense is what really won the Thunder the game — they held Doncic and Kyrie Irving to 39 points on 13-of-33 shooting (39.5%), and Dallas shot just 42.1% in the paint for the game as Chet Holmgren and the Thunder length caused the Mavericks issues.

Dallas experienced a culture shock in this game. Against the Clippers in the first round, there were players they could help off of, players who could be ignored at the arc. Oklahoma City is not that way. Their entire offensive premise is five out, Gilgeous-Alexander or Jalen Williams driving, and if the defense collapses, finding the open shooter.

Those Thunder role players hit their 3s: Lu Dort, Williams, and Holmgren were each 2-of-5 from beyond the arc, Isaiah Joe was 2-of-3, and OKC shot 45.7% from 3 as a team. One adjustment Dallas has to make in the next game is staying home on shooters and daring the Thunder guards to score over length in the paint.

Holmgren finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and three blocks for OKC, while Williams struggled came on late and scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth to help Oklahoma City pull away.