After game three, the magic seemed to begin to run out on the Thunder’s magical year.

Even though Oklahoma City finished with the best regular-season record in the Western Conference, they have the youngest roster remaining in the playoffs. After dropping two straight to the Dallas Mavericks, their lack of playoff experience started to catch up with them.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander proved that age was just a number. The MVP candidate dropped 34 points on an efficient 14-26 from inside the arc and kept the Thunder afloat while the team around him verged on collapsing. His teammates rewarded his efforts as OKC finished the game on a 20-14 run and stole game four on the road in a contest they had little business winning.

The night started disastrously for Oklahoma City. Dallas, powered by their home floor and an efficient start from their superstars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, raced out to a 22-8 advantage. The Mavericks smashed their way into the lane and created a lay-up, open three-point attempt or took free throws on almost all of their early possessions. Dallas wanted to bury the young Thunder team early and blitzed them for multiple double-digit leads in the first half.

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter!

A week of sports news in your in-box.
We find the sports news you need to know, so you don't have to.

The largest pushback Mark Cuban’s team faced for most of the game came from themselves. The Mavs missed 11 free throws on the night, on 12-23 shooting from the charity stripe in one of the worst displays of foul shooting in NBA history. Their inability to take advantage haunted them throughout the game.

The Thunder finished the first half with a below-average 43 points, and they left their offense in the locker room to start the third. They did not score in the opening two minutes of the frame before SGA scored four straight points for his team and broke their scoring skid. From then on, OKC looked more composed, and their production followed suit. The Thunder cut the deficit to only four points, entering the fourth as they increased their ball movement and stretched out the Maverick’s defense.

However, they did not start the fourth quarter on time. In the early moments of the frame, SGA’s squad quickly fell behind by eight and looked to be heading back home down 3-1.

All of a sudden, the offense reignited.

The next three Thunder makes came from behind the arc as their outside shooting kept them within reach of the Mavs. A mini spurt is all that Gilgeous-Alexander needed as he scored or assisted on 14 of the following 16 OKC points. Dallas did not have an answer for the young superstar, and their inability to create stops affected their offense. They scored just five points over three minutes with five minutes left in the contest as the Thunder began to put a stranglehold on game four. Doncic had a chance to tie the game at 96 but missed the front end of two attempts at the foul line with 10 seconds left. Oklahoma City came up composed at the line, as they had done all night, shooting 23-24 from the stripe, and sunk their free throws final free throw attempts to put the game out of reach.

Although both teams played with incredible defensive intensity for most of the night, with a combined 22 blocks between the two, the Mavericks threw this game away and wasted a golden chance to put the Thunder on the brink of elimination. Doncic and Irving let their team down, combining to shoot a putrid 10-31 from the floor and knocking down only 27 points. After it seemed that the stars found their footing in the series, Dallas will be the team answering questions about their ability to close out games and rise up in big moments.

Oklahoma City did their job and will enjoy the confines of home as two of the potential next three games are played in the Sooner state.

Read more about:

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Listen to the uInterview Podcast!
Get the most-revealing celebrity conversations with the uInterview podcast!