Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder shoots the ball against Derrick Jones Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks during the third quarter in Game 1 of their Western Conference second-round series at Paycom Center on May 7, 2024, in Oklahoma City. (Photo by Joshua Gateley/Getty Images)

The Oklahoma City Thunder wasted no time asserting their dominance in the Western Conference Semifinals, dismantling the Dallas Mavericks 117-95 in Tuesday night’s opening act.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the rising superstar and MVP finalist, orchestrated the Thunder’s offensive symphony. He notched a near triple-double with 29 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists, showcasing his well-rounded skillset.

The difference in efficiency between the two teams was stark. Gilgeous-Alexander, despite not having his best shooting night (8-19 FG), converted his free throws consistently (11-13 FT) On the other hand, Luka Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander’s counterpart and fellow MVP finalist, struggled mightily. Doncic finished with a disappointing 19 points on a lowly 6-for-19 shooting.

Much of the credit for Doncic’s woes goes to Lu Dort, the Thunder’s defensive stalwart. Dort, renowned for his tenacity on the perimeter, hounded Doncic all night, making life difficult for the Slovenian superstar. Rookie Cason Wallace and Chet Holmgren also chipped in defensively, with Wallace providing occasional defensive spells and Holmgren’s imposing presence deterring Doncic at the rim.

While Gilgeous-Alexander spearheaded the offense, the Thunder received valuable contributions from other sources. Sophomore center Chet Holmgren chipped in with a well-rounded performance of 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Jalen Williams, who had an off shooting night for most of the game, came alive in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 18 points to help the Thunder maintain control.

The Mavericks, despite valiant efforts from Kyrie Irving (20 points) and Daniel Gafford (16 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks), simply couldn’t keep pace with the Thunder’s offensive onslaught and defensive focus. Oklahoma City held Dallas to a meager 39.3% shooting from the field, showcasing their defensive prowess.

This dominant win extends the Thunder’s perfect playoff record to 4-0. However, Head Coach Mark Daigneault remains cautious, acknowledging that the Mavericks are a dangerous team, especially considering their come-from-behind victory against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round.

“We can expect them to play better than they did tonight,” Daigneault said. “The last thing we’re going to do is underestimate this opponent.”

The Thunder will look to capitalize on their momentum and take a commanding 2-0 series lead when they host Game 2 on Thursday night in Oklahoma City. The Mavericks, on the other hand, will need to regroup quickly and find a way to unlock Doncic’s offensive potential if they want to bounce back in this series.

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