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SPORTS

Doncic Posts 31-Point Triple-Double as Mavericks Top Thunder to Take 3-2 Series Lead

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Luka Doncic stopped worrying about calls and just played.

It worked. He scored 31 points in a triple-double, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-92 on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series.

Doncic didn’t voice his displeasure with the officials nearly as much as usual, though he had words with fans a few times.

“I’m just trying to play basketball, just focus on basketball,” he said. “Sometimes I forget this is the thing I love, the thing I do. My mental focus was just go out there and play basketball with a smile on my face and just go.”

Doncic, the league’s leading scorer in the regular season, had struggled some in the series against Oklahoma City. Playing through a sprained right knee and a sore left ankle, he had averaged just 22 points on 39% shooting through the first four games. He made 12 of 22 field goals in Game 5 and had 11 assists and 10 rebounds for his sixth career playoff triple-double.

“He was aggressive,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “He was making shots, taking shots. The deep 3, being able to get to the basket, playmaking for his bigs and also for the wings.”

Dallas regained the lead in the series after blowing a 14-point advantage and losing 100-96 at home in Game 4.

“We know the last game we played against them at home, we let it go,” Doncic said. “It was our mistakes and they hit shots.”

Derrick Jones Jr. scored a playoff career-high 19 points and P.J. Washington Jr. added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Dallas, which shot 52.6% from the floor. The No. 5-seeded Mavericks can advance to the Western Conference finals with a win Saturday at home.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 points for the top-seeded Thunder, but no other Oklahoma City player scored more than 13.

The Mavericks won Game 5 on the road, just like they did in the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers. Dallas held Oklahoma City to 42.5% shooting.

Coach Mark Daigneault said the Thunder simply didn’t shoot well, but they found some cracks in Dallas’ defense late in the game.

“I thought we were kind of there tonight and maybe missed a couple plays,” Daigneault said.

Oklahoma City tried to jump-start its struggling offense by replacing Josh Giddey with Isaiah Joe in the starting lineup. Giddey did not start for the first time in 229 combined regular season and postseason games.

Dallas led by 15 in the second quarter and took a 54-44 edge into halftime. Jones scored 15 points before the break.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 14 points in the third quarter, but Dallas still led 79-67.

Dallas pushed its lead out to 18 points early in the fourth quarter before the Thunder surged. A 3-pointer by Gilgeous-Alexander cut the deficit to 89-79 with just under seven minutes remaining and forced Dallas to call a timeout. The Thunder never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.

Now, the Mavericks are close to advancing.

“We’ve got one more to win out of two games,” Doncic said. “That’s it. We’re up 3-2, but that’s still nothing. We’ve got to finish it and go with the same mentality at home.”

The Thunder, one of the youngest teams in the league, face elimination for the first time.

“Our mood won’t change, our mentality won’t change,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It’s one game at a time. We wanted to win this game tonight as badly as we’re going to want to win the next game.”

___
By CLIFF BRUNT. AP Sports Writer

This story corrects Doncic’s point total to 31. A previous version said that he scored 30.

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