The Mavs Took A 2-1 Lead On The Thunder In Game 3 As Kyrie Irving Took Over Late

After dropping Game 1, the Mavericks bounced back to swipe homecourt from the Thunder in Game 2 of their conference semifinals series. As the series shifted to Dallas, there was plenty of intrigue as to which team would seize control. Ultimately, it was the Mavs that were able to take advantage of a huge third quarter run and closed the deal behind a Kyrie Irving masterclass down the stretch, taking a 2-1 series lead after a 105-101 win.

PJ Washington got things started with a dunk on Saturday afternoon and was, by far, the best offensive weapon for the Mavs in the first half, scoring 19 for Dallas in the first 24 minutes.

After a sluggish offensive start, the Thunder found themselves trailing by as many as nine in the first quarter, but went on a 19-7 run sparked by Chet Holmgren’s defense (four first half blocks) and punctuated by a Jalen Williams three in the second quarter that gave OKC their first lead since the opening minutes.

From that point, there was not much to separate the two teams, as every mini-run was greeted with a swift response from the other side.

Ultimately, the Thunder took a 52-51 lead into halftime after Luka Doncic and Isaiah Joe traded threes in the last 10 seconds of the second quarter.

As the third quarter began, the Thunder opened up the first double-digit lead of the afternoon as they hounded Dallas on defense and turned that into quick offense on the other end.

However, Dallas once again had the answer in the form of a 16-0 run to take the lead back, with PJ Washington continuing his big night.

The rest of the third was a bit of tug of war, with Dallas holding on to a narrow lead, but in the fourth quarter they would start to open it up a touch as Kyrie Irving finally started to get his shot to fall, with it not mattering what OKC did on defense.

Still, every time it looked like the Mavs might take control of the game the Thunder would chip away to keep things close, but OKC could never fully reel in Dallas. After Dallas got in the bonus in the mid-fourth, they started hacking Dereck Lively II, which worked briefly and got Jason Kidd to play small, but Lively returned and was able to go 5-of-8 overall at the line during that stretch to keep the Mavs from losing ground.

While the Mavs weren’t ever able to pull away, the Thunder could not find enough baskets on the other end even as they started to get stops. Down three, Shai Gilegous-Alexander forced up a wild three that missed, and Kyrie was able to get a lefty finish to go on the other end to put Dallas up five.

The Thunder will look at Game 3 as an opportunity that got away, particularly in that third quarter as the 16-0 Dallas run was the difference in the game. After leading the league in three-point shooting this season, the Thunder have not had their shot from deep the last two games, going 10-of-30 from three and passing up a number of solid looks as their confidence as a group seems to be dwindling a bit. They’ll have to find that again if they’re going to even this series in Game 4, because their size disadvantage inside continues to be a factor.

Dallas dominated the offensive glass again, pulling in 15 offensive rebounds that continuously gave them extra possessions and opportunities. On a night where neither team shot it well, Dallas creating 10 more shots than OKC in a game where they were tied in the turnover battle (13 each) was key in getting the win. PJ Washington continues to be a difference-maker for the Mavs, scoring 27 to lead them on the night, while Doncic and Irving had 22 points each. As has been the case a number of times this postseason, Irving saved his scoring energy for the end, as his fourth quarter takeover was much-needed as the rest of the Mavs struggled to create much separation.

Game 4 will be back in Dallas on Tuesday night, tipping off at 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT.