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Anne Photograp News 2024

Nuggets center Jokic wins third NBA MVP Award
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Nuggets center Jokic wins third NBA MVP Award

Luka Doncic acknowledged “I have to be better” after the Dallas Mavericks were defeated by the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

The Thunder, who swept the New Orleans Pelicans in their first-round series, built on that momentum with a 117-95 win at Paycom Center.

Though it was a day to forget for Doncic, who recorded just 19 points on six-of-19 shooting while ending a streak of 24 consecutive playoff games with at least 20 points, while also committing five turnovers.

The five-time NBA All-Star has been battling a knee injury and was tight-marked by Oklahoma’s Lu Dort, while also being just one-of-eight from three-point range, making it five-of-35 in the past four games.

That’s the worst percentage (14.3 percent) for any player with at least 30 attempts in a four-game stretch during the postseason.

“(We just have to) move on to the next one,” Doncic said. “I have to be better, we have to be better. We have to concentrate. They are a great team, a great defensive team, so it won’t be easy at all.”

“We have to put together a complete game against this young OKC team because they have an endless amount of energy,” added Kyle Irving, who finished with 20 points. “They will never stop attacking.”

Oklahoma, the youngest team in NBA history to win a playoff series after their victory over the Pelicans, reeled off five straight postseason wins with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 29 points along the way.

The Thunder have given up just 90.6 points per game in the playoffs, the fewest by any team through five postseason games since the San Antonio Spurs in 2016.

“(The defense is) where we hang our hat every night,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Especially this late in the season, we know that if we want to win basketball games, we have to start with that goal.

“Obviously we have some really talented players on that end of the floor, but we also like to do it together and not just rely on those guys.”