NBA Playoffs: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander propels Thunder past Mavs to tie series at 2-2

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander didn’t get much offensive help from his teammates Monday night.

He didn’t need it.

The Thunder All-Star powered a rally from a 14-point first-half deficit to lead Oklahoma City to a 100-96 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. With the win, the Thunder evened the Western Conference semifinals at 2-2 to avoid returning to Oklahoma City on the brink of elimination.

In a tough game for both teams, Gilgeous-Alexander was the star of the show with a 34-point effort. He helped the Thunder come back from a 22-8 first-quarter deficit, then powered a 9-0 fourth-quarter run that put the Thunder ahead, 89-86. Oklahoma City no longer trailed.

The Thunder struggled for much of the evening against a stifling Dallas defense that repeatedly challenged Oklahoma City’s efforts in the paint. But Gilgeous-Alexander thrived while Mavericks All-Stars Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving struggled on offense.

Dončić had the opportunity to tie the score at the free throw line in the final seconds. He missed the front of two shots with Dallas trailing 96-94 with 10.1 seconds remaining. Gilgeous-Alexander then iced the game with two free throws with 1.4 seconds remaining to secure the four-point victory.

Powered by PJ Washington and a dominant effort in the paint, Dallas took control early. The Mavericks led 30-20 after the first quarter and 54-43 at halftime. They did much of their early work from the stripe with a 13-5 rebounding advantage in the first quarter and a 22-17 edge at halftime. They had totaled nine blocks by halftime while holding the Thunder to 34.9% shooting from the field. Oklahoma City made just one of 11 3-point attempts in the first half.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put on a show in Oklahoma City's win over Dallas on Monday night.  (Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put on a show in Oklahoma City’s win over Dallas on Monday night. (Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

The Thunder responded in kind and put the brakes on the Mavs’ offense in the third quarter, limiting Dallas to 15 points in the stanza. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 12 points in the quarter as the Thunder closed on a 22-12 run to cut their deficit to 69-65 entering the fourth.

Dallas held the lead for most of the fourth quarter until Gilgeous-Alexander took control of the game in the final six minutes. He scored eight straight Thunder points while repeatedly hitting contested shots to bring the Thunder back into the game.

His baseline teardrop floater against Tim Hardaway Jr. and Washington tied the game at 86-86.

A Chet Holmgren 3 off an assist from Gilgeous-Alexander then capped a 9-0 run, giving the Thunder their first lead since 4-2 in the first quarter at 89-86. They didn’t give up.

Once the game was over, Oklahoma City had erased its initial rebounding deficit and secured a 47-45 advantage on the glass for the game. The Thunder shot 6 of 16 from 3 after halftime following the only goal in the first half.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 34 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 14 of 27 from the field. He missed his only 3-point attempt. Holmgren added 18 points, nine rebounds and four blocks while shooting 6 of 9 from the field. Jalen Williams (5 of 19), Josh Giddey (2 of 8) and Luguentz Dort (4 of 14) all struggled from the field as Oklahoma City overcame a 38 percent shooting night to secure the victory.

Dallas wasn’t much better from the field on a 40.9% shooting night. Misses at the free throw line proved costly down the stretch. The Mavericks missed five free throws in the fourth quarter in a 12-of-23 (52%) effort for the night.

Dončić’s late miss stood out, but he was the only Maverick of six who attempted free throws to shoot better than 50 percent on a 4-of-6 effort. He finished with a triple-double 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. But the shooting woes that have plagued him throughout the playoffs (41 percent before Monday) struck again in a 6-of-20 from the field.

Irving surrendered his shots to his teammates while shooting 4 of 11 from the field in a nine-point, nine-assist effort. Washington led the Mavericks in scoring for a third straight game while totaling 21 points and 12 rebounds and shooting 5 of 11 from 3. Unlike Games 2 and 3, his scoring production did not lead to a victory.

The series now returns to Oklahoma City for Game 5 on Wednesday night.