Tight finish sends Mavs past Thunder, into Western Conference finals

P.J. Washington made two free throws with 2.5 seconds left and the Dallas Mavericks advanced to the Western Conference finals for the second time in the past three seasons with a 117-116 victory over the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night.

Washington was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and missed the third free throw on purpose to prevent a Thunder squad out of timeouts from being able to set up for a final shot. Jalen Williams’ 64-footer as time expired was nowhere near the basket as top-seeded Oklahoma City was eliminated in Game 6 of a second-round playoff series.

Luka Doncic recorded 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the fifth-seeded Mavericks. Kyrie Irving and Derrick Jones Jr. added 22 points apiece, Dereck Lively II had 12 points and 15 rebounds off the bench and Daniel Gafford had 10 points.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander registered 36 points and eight assists for Oklahoma City. Williams added 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and Chet Holmgren scored 21 points for the Thunder.

The Mavericks will face either the Denver Nuggets or Minnesota Timberwolves in the conference finals.

Washington buried a 3-pointer with 2:01 left in regulation to give Dallas a 113-110 lead. Jones hit a turnaround jumper with 1:11 remaining to give the Mavericks a five-point edge.

Gilgeous-Alexander knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:05 to go to bring Oklahoma City within two.

Washington was called for a foul before the ball was inbounded with 27 seconds left, sending Gilgeous-Alexander to the line to sink one free throw. The Thunder kept possession, and Gilgeous-Alexander drove the lane and lofted a high pass that Holmgren slammed home for a 116-115 lead with 20.4 seconds left.

Oklahoma City shot 47.8 percent from the field, including 15 of 41 from 3-point range.

The Mavericks connected on 51.2 percent of their shots and were 16 of 34 from behind the arc.

After seeing the Thunder lead by as many as 17 in the third quarter, Lively threw down a dunk to cap a 7-0 run as Dallas tied the score at 97 with 6:30 left in the game.

The Thunder later led 105-101 after Gilgeous-Alexander buried an 18-footer with 4:44 left. The Mavericks then answered with six straight points.

Oklahoma City later tied the score at 110 on Gilgeous-Alexander’s jumper with 2:47 to play.

Doncic drained a 3-pointer to give Dallas a 42-40 edge with 4:54 left in the first half. That lead lasted exactly one minute and marked the only time the Mavericks were ahead until late in the game. The Thunder outscored Dallas 24-6 the rest of the second quarter to hold a 64-48 halftime lead.