Washington’s clutch free throws help Dallas seal series against Oklahoma

Luka Doncic and the Mavericks book the first ticket to the Western Conference finals (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

Despite a foul-plagued start and a limited offensive production, Dallas Mavericks’ emerging swingman PJ Washington let his presence felt in other ways and sank the most important free throws of the game that steered his squad to another Western Conference finals appearance.

With only 2.5 seconds left in regulation and the Mavericks trailing by a point, Washington sent the Oklahoma City Thunder home with two cold-blooded free throws to pull off the 117-116 Game 6 victory in their West semis showdown of the NBA Playoffs on May 19, 2024.

Washington was fouled by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on a three-point attempt from the left corner after a loose ball scramble led to a tipped ball back to Dallas.

Fortunately for the Mavericks, Luka Doncic was able to tap the ball to Washington who fearlessly rose up for a three-point attempt.

As he gathered his follow-through, Alexander was in the wrong place and the wrong time as his block attempt hit Washington’s wrist first that disrupted his shooting motion.

Washington then sealed the deal for Dallas after burying the first two shots from the charity stripe to give them a one-point lead. Despite missing the last throw, Oklahoma still had a difficult possession to run as they already consumed all of their timeouts.

It was a scary situation for the Mavericks after the rolling Oklahoma squad stomped them in the first half and built its largest lead of the game to 17 points.

With their three-pointers falling backstopped by their waxing-hot bench production, the Thunder made a case of extending the series back to Oklahoma for a highly-anticipated Game 7.

However, Dallas’ super duo of Doncic and Kyrie Irving smelled blood in the second half and willed the Mavericks to a heart-pounding comeback effort.

From a 17-point deficit, Dallas cruised to a momentum-clinching 69-52 offensive counter run in the second half, thanks to the scoring load delivered by Doncic and Irving.

With Lugentz Dort in foul trouble, Oklahoma’s primary defender assigned to Doncic, the Serbian maestro just swiveled his way to a dominant performance.

Meanwhile, Irving, who only finished the first half with four points, caught fire in the final two frames and tallied 22 total markers including several clutch haymakers that halted the Oklahoma City run.

Doncic wrapped up the Western Conference semifinals with another triple-double of 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in 44 minutes of playing time.

Oklahoma had their moments in the crucial stretch of the game as Chet Holmgren slammed an alley-oop feed from Alexander that gave the Thunder a 116-115 advantage in the final 21 seconds of the game.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma, Alexander committed the costly foul that rewarded the Mavericks with three freebie shots from the charity stripe that won them the game.