NBA playoffs: Thunder roll past Mavericks in Game 1 as youth prevails again

In a matchup of dynamic duos, Oklahoma City's reigned supreme Tuesday night.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chet Holmgren powered the Thunder to a 117-95 win over Luka Dončić, Kyrie Irving and the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

After a tight start that was tied at 23 after the first quarter, the Thunder asserted control to take a nine-point halftime lead. The Mavericks cut that deficit to one in the third, but the Thunder hit back with a run of their own to bump their lead back to double digits. The Mavericks never threatened in the fourth quarter, and the Thunder walked away with a convincing Game 1 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder to a Game 1 win over Kyrie Irving and the Mavericks. (Joshua Gateley/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder to a Game 1 win over Kyrie Irving and the Mavericks. (Joshua Gateley/Getty Images)

Gilgeous-Alexander powered the Thunder offense with a game-high 29 points alongside nine rebounds, nine assists, two blocks and a steal. He had 19 at halftime to outscore the combined first-half effort (18 points) from Dončić and Irving.

Holmgren was a force on both sides of the court while posting 19 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals. He shot 8 of 16 from the field.

After a six-point first half, Irving picked up the pace with nine third-quarter points including a 3-pointer to cut Oklahoma City's lead to 66-65. But it wasn't enough.

The Thunder responded to the Dallas run with a 14-4 run of their own to extend their lead to 80-69. They capped the run with a Holmgren block of Irving in the lane that set up a Gilgeous-Alexander 3-pointer on the other end.

The Thunder then dominated the fourth quarter with a 28-16 run to turn the once-close game into a runaway win.

The Thunder entered these playoffs as the West's No. 1 seed but surrounded by questions about their viability against playoff-tested teams. They're the youngest roster in the postseason and possess a dearth of players with postseason experience.

That inexperience wasn't an issue in a first-round sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans. Against a Mavericks team featuring playoff-tested stars in Dončić and Irving, it did not matter Tuesday night. Youth prevailed against a Mavericks team that shot the ball poorly and turned it over 15 times.

OKC limited Dallas to 39.3% shooting from the floor and 12-of-35 (34.3%) from long distance. Dončić, clearly bothered by a lingering knee sprain, shot 6 of 19 from the field and hit just 1 of his 8 3-point attempts. He finished with 19 points, nine assists, six rebounds and a minus-21 in the plus/minus column. Irving tallied 20 points and three assists while shooting 7 of 14 from the field and 3 of 4 from 3.

The Thunder countered with a 44.9% shooting night and a sizzling 16-of-35 (45.7%) effort from 3-point distance. Seven Thunder players finished with two or more 3-pointers while shooting 40% or better from beyond the arc.

Alongside Holmgren (2 of 5) and Gilgeous-Alexander (2 of 4), Jalen Williams was one of them, hitting 2 of 5 3-pointers on an 18-point, five-rebound, five-assist night. Aaron Wiggins hit 3 of 4 from distance while tallying 16 points, five rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes off the bench.

The series remains in Oklahoma City for Game 2 Thursday night.