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Gilgeous-Alexander takes over late, sparks Thunder comeback in Dallas to win Game 4, even series

Is Doncic letting Mavs down with poor FT shooting?
Poor free-throw shooting can decide games and cost a team a title, and if Luka Doncic is going to be as ball-dominant as he is, he must improve his free throw shooting along with the team, according to Dan Patrick.

All season long, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder were quietly one of the better clutch teams in the NBA. They were again Monday night and it may have saved their season.

SGA took control of the game in the fourth quarter after the Thunder offense looked dazed and confused for much of the night. Gilgeous-Alexander got some help from Jalen Williams in the fourth, plus Chet Holmgren and Lu Dort hit clutch 3-pointers late — and, unlike Dallas, Oklahoma City hit its free throws.

All that proved to be enough.

In a “how did that happen” kind of game — the kind of ending that can turn a series — the Thunder left Dallas with a 100-96 win Monday, tying up the series 2-2 heading back to Oklahoma City for Game 5.

"[Gilgeous-Alexander] took that thing by the horns there late,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said postgame.

Oklahoma City won this game with their clutch play — or Dallas fell apart, if you ask them. In the fourth quarter:
• OKC was 7-of-7 from the free throw line, Dallas was 6-of-11 (54.5%)
• OKC shot 4-of-8 from 3, Dallas 1-of-5.
• The Thunder were 2-of-4 from five points on second-chance shots.

What will keep Jason Kidd up at night is the missed free throws — Dallas was 12-of-23 from the stripe for the night. That includes Luka Doncic, who had a rough night — 18 points on 6-of-20 shooting — and missed the first of two free throws with 10.1 seconds left that, if he had made both, would have tied the game.

“We’ve just got to work on our free-throws. We only shot 52%. It’s unacceptable,” Doncic said.

For much of the night, it looked like Dallas’ defense would win the day. Oklahoma City shot 1-of-11 from 3 in the first half, but the real issue was they were also shooting 36% overall in the paint and 40% in the restricted area — Dallas’ defense was taking away everything and had SGA and the Thunder wanted to do (and had done all season). Thunder players were giving up good looks expecting with the next pass a teammate would lead to a great one, but the Mavericks close out fast and turn those into contested looks. Dallas’ defense was on a string.

The counter turned out to be a more aggressive Gilgeous-Alexander.

Still, the Mavericks defense held the Thunder to 38% shooting on the night (7-of-27 from 3) and it was not enough because Dallas’ own offense was worse down the stretch. P.J. Washington had another strong game with 21 points. However, Kyrie Irving anded the night with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting (although he did have nine assists).

However, when it mattered the young Thunder were the team showing poise and making plays, and with that the series is tied.