In hard-fought win, Mavericks show their resiliency to go up 2-1 vs. Thunder

DALLAS — Two 7-foot-1 running backs, two 7-foot-1 Beans, are tasked with elevating MVP candidates in the second round of the playoffs during their first professional seasons. but when Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma CityStarting center for, positioned in his defensive stance at the top of the key, saw Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault motion for Holmgren to wrangle his counterpart, Mavericks big Derek Lively IIbefore Luka Doncic or Kyrie Irving It can initiate any formal crime.

So Holmgren arrived with his endless arms out, racing along the baseline, while Lively’s curly hair flowed behind him like a passerby outpacing a coyote — like two huge kids in a schoolyard, instead of on the hardwood under the watchful eyes of 20,325 people, including Patrick V. Pitch. Mahomes. To Lively’s credit, he escaped Holmgren’s clutches. “He’s been playing for a while,” Mavericks forward P.J. said. WashingtonThe team finished with 27 points.

Lively would eventually get tangled, and he missed three of his first four attempts to draw OKC’s intentional fouls. Dallas coach Jason Kidd removed the Duke product from his lineup shortly thereafter. Veteran shooter Tim Hardaway Jr. He stepped in, leaving the 6-foot-7 Washington as the Mavericks’ biggest player on the court. For a moment, it looked as if Dallas was riding a smaller lineup without any of its traditional quarterbacks on the floor, something the Mavericks haven’t been around for. Maxi Clipper He was sidelined with a shoulder injury.

However, Lively’s relief was short-lived. “I just wanted him to catch his breath,” Kidd said. Irving then encouraged Lively to stop swinging on the ground once he returned. “I take it as a compliment,” Irving said.

“You don’t need to run around and play hide and seek,” Kidd added.

Lively calmly drained his next four attempts at the line – knocking down 5 of 8 to punish OKC’s strategy. The free throws allowed Dallas to set their defense straight, as the Mavericks forced several turnovers after Lively’s trips to the charity stripe. Irving continued his scoring streak, and the Mavericks took a 2-1 lead over the Thunder, thanks to A tough win 105-101 On visitors.

This Game 3 was so much more physical than those touch fouls that dared Lively not to blink. These nightly playoff matchups pit the same defensive assignments against the same offensive designers, and with each passing battle, their familiarity only grows, and the tug-of-war begins to showcase more scrapes and bruises. “What you see out there, we definitely feel,” Irving said. Irving came out scowling on one possession and shook his right hand. Thunder guard Jalen Williams He was writhing in pain at the end of the third quarter, clutching his hot pink sneakers and his sore left ankle. Dončić remains the limpest of all, suffering from a nagging sprain in his right knee.

When asked where exactly he feels the pressure of three games under guard Logointz DortDonjic replied simply: “Everything.” The scourge of the Oklahoma City Bulldogs has loomed over an ailing Doncic on every inch of the court. “Guys are trying to get to his head,” Washington said. Dort bumps into Dončić every chance he sees that he can get away with, and even the ones where he still gets whistled. He committed five fouls in each of the first two matches, before picking up a sixth foul as well as an ejection in this one. Dort is such a pest, such a brute, that Mahomes told the ESPN broadcast that he could fit in the NFL. So when Dončić crashed onto the deck after making a jump ball off a defensive rebound with 1:28 to play, of course it was Dort whose rush to the rock flattened Dončić like a rock. “I was straight on my back,” Doncic said. “I mean, right now, that’s the least of my problems.”

Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic faces some tough, physical defenses against the Thunder in this series while nursing a right knee injury.  (Photo by Tim Hittman/Getty Images)Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic faces some tough, physical defenses against the Thunder in this series while nursing a right knee injury.  (Photo by Tim Hittman/Getty Images)

Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic faces some tough, physical defenses against the Thunder in this series while nursing a right knee injury. (Photo by Tim Hittman/Getty Images)

His knee remains the biggest hurdle of all. There was Dončić sprawled on the floor again with 12 seconds left, having landed on that pesky joint after trying to sneak past a pair of trapped Thunder players. “Obviously no one touched me,” Doncic said with a smile. He wasn’t nearly as cheerful whenever he made his case to crew chief John Goebel, or whenever he made his case to referee Billy Kennedy, just as he always did during stoppages in play or during lulls or someone’s free throws. For long stretches of this series, Dončić seemed more focused on fouling Dort, just to send him to the sidelines, rather than just attacking the burly man in front of him. He was just 1-of-4 from long range, scoring 22 points in a much tougher performance than his OKC chips, Shai Gilgeous-Alexanderwhose collection of intermediate jumpers was as smooth as any package any player could produce at this point.

However, Washington now had Dallas at his disposal, not to mention Irving’s ability to cook up any recipe at a moment’s notice. For the second straight game, the Mavericks have made it a point to find a major trade deadline in the mail. Washington had five more threes after tying a career-high seven in Game 2. When he’s not spotting in the corners, always ready for Doncic’s buzzer-beating pass, Washington is able to put the ball on the floor and attack the smaller. Josh Geddy, and the rest of OKC’s lineup was not named Holmgren. After 4 1/2 seasons in Charlotte, never advancing beyond championship play, Washington confirmed the Dallas front office’s belief that he deserved to have their top two protégés selected in the first round, and affirmed his belief that he could perform in that regard. platform. “I’ve been waiting to get here my whole career, so I’m enjoying every second of it,” Washington said.

Their next encounter will come on Monday, with extra time to recover, as Doncic pointed out, thanks to the advice of the coach in this game. Irving said recovery this time of year requires sacrificing time away from his wife and children. However, there is a championship at stake. The other Western Conference matchup features another 2-1 heavyweight matchup. The Mavericks know they have accomplished nothing at this point in the postseason, yet they have come tantalizingly close to what is currently a wide-open chance to make the Finals. “Of course we can,” Donjic said. “You have to believe.”

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