NBA playoffs: P.J. Washington shines again as Mavericks hold off Thunder in Game 3, take 2-1 series lead

The Mavericks hung on to take a 105-101 win over the Thunder in Game 3

P.J. Washington is taking over in Dallas.

Washington, after dropping a playoff career-high 29 points Thursday night, led the Mavericks past the Oklahoma City Thunder once again Saturday afternoon. Washington put up 27 points and hit five 3-pointers to push the Mavericks to a 105-101 win in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinals series at the American Airlines Center. The win puts Dallas up 2-1 over the top seed in the West.

The Mavericks jumped up early in the first quarter yet again after starting the game 6-of-6 from the field. But like it’s been the entire series, the Thunder bounced right back to keep the game close. After cutting Dallas’ lead to a single possession by the end of the first, the Thunder used an 11-5 run to open the second quarter that Jalen Williams capped with a 3-pointer — which gave them their first lead since the opening minutes.

The Thunder took a one-point lead into halftime after that, thanks to a back-to-back sequence and a huge answer to a Luka Dončić bucket by Isaiah Joe — who had 10 points off the bench. Washington had 19 of his 27 points in the first half, too.

The Thunder nearly pulled away in the third quarter after using an 11-0 run early in the period, but Washington and the Mavericks responded instantly. They went on a 16-0 tear to jump right out in front again, and took a four-point lead after Washington hit yet another corner 3-pointer.

Oklahoma City nearly lost Williams to an awkward ankle injury in the third quarter, too. He crashed to the court after a screen and remained down for quite some time grabbing his ankle, and then he limped off the floor to the locker room. He returned to start the fourth quarter, however, and finished out the game without much issue.

Though the Thunder cut it to a single possession with just a minute left, it was Irving who flew past Williams and dropped a perfect left-handed floater at the rim — which put the Mavericks up enough to seal the four-point win.

Washington had six rebounds and two assists to go with his 27 points, which brings him to 57 combined points in the last two games for Dallas. He averaged just 12.9 points per game this season. Irving had 22 points and seven assists. Dončić, who was questionable with right knee soreness, played normally Saturday and finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led Oklahoma City with 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Williams added 16 points and eight assists, and Chet Holmgren dropped 13 points and eight rebounds.

Game 4 of the series is set for Monday night in Dallas. A win there for the Mavericks will send them back to Oklahoma City just a win away from earning a second trip to the Western Conference finals in the past three seasons — and it would have the Thunder on the brink of elimination early after what was their best season in nearly a decade.