Thunder overpower Mavs in opener

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander produced 29 points, nine rebounds and nine assists to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 117-95 win over the visiting Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of their Western Conference semi-final series on Tuesday.

Gilgeous-Alexander shot 8 of 19 from the floor but 11 of 13 from the free-throw line in his first career second-round playoff game. The Thunder became the youngest team in NBA history to win a conference semifinal game.

Kyrie Irving scored 19 points and Luka Doncic finished with 19 points and nine assists for Dallas.

Less than five minutes into the third quarter, the Mavericks cut a 12-point Thunder lead to one on Irving’s 3-pointer off a feed from Luka Doncic.

Oklahoma City outscored Dallas 51-30 the rest of the way.

“I think it’s a muscle we’ve built at this point,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said of the poise his team showed in responding when Dallas cut his team’s lead. “We’ve had to endure a lot of those situations during the course of the season. I think a lot of it comes from respect for your opponent.”

The Thunder quickly answered Irving’s trey out of a timeout, with Isaiah Joe draining a 3-pointer to kickstart a 14-4 run over the next three minutes.

Gilgeous-Alexander assisted on two of the Thunder’s four 3-pointers during the run, then added the exclamation point on the stretch by sinking a 3-pointer from the top of the key to send the home crowd into a frenzy.

Before the game, Doncic heaped praise on Oklahoma City’s Luguentz Dort, calling him one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA.

Dort showed why during the key sequence, knocking the ball away from Doncic near midcourt, diving to collect the ball before quickly finding a streaking Joe, who fed it up to Jalen Williams for a dunk.

Dort helped the Thunder hold Doncic to 6-of-19 shooting, including 1-of-8 from beyond the arc.

“They’re a great team, great defensive team, great offensive team, so it’s not going to be easy at all,” Doncic said. “We’ve got to play very good basketball – focused basketball – for 48 minutes.”

Meanwhile, Jaylen Brown scored 32 points while leading the Boston Celtics to a 120-95 victory over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Derrick White made 7 of 12 3-point attempts and added 25 points for the Celtics, who had a 55-38 edge in rebounding. Jayson Tatum contributed 18 points and 11 rebounds but had a poor shooting night. Tatum went 7 of 19 from the field, including 0-for-5 from 3-point territory.

Boston’s Payton Pritchard logged 16 points, Jrue Holiday had 14 points and Luke Kornet grabbed 10 rebounds.

“It starts with defense,” Brown said. “We wanted to set the tone on defense and kept them under 100 (points), but we feel like we have an answer for everything (on offense). We just play the game the right way. We see what they want to take away and we play after that.”

Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with 33 points. Mitchell also had six rebounds and five assists.

“It’s one game at the end of the day,” Mitchell said. “Jaylen Brown is an All-NBA player. He makes $300 million for a reason. It’s not the first time he’s scored 30 on somebody.

“They’re a high-powered team. We’ll look at the film and be better on Thursday. It sucks that we lost, but it’s good to see where we can improve.”

The Cavaliers received 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds from Evan Mobley. Darius Garland finished with 14 points, and Isaac Okoro had 11.

Jarrett Allen, Cleveland’s starting center, missed his fourth straight game due to a rib injury. Allen averaged 17.0 points, 13.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 31.8 minutes per game during the first four games of Cleveland’s first-round series against the Orlando Magic.

“Player safety,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We’re not going to put him out there if he can’t protect himself. That’s where he’s been at to this point.” — Field Level Media.

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