Mavericks series revealing how Thunder facilitated their own downfall

Dallas is reminding Oklahoma City that they handed themselves their current scenario.
Dereck Lively, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Dereck Lively, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander / Tim Heitman/GettyImages

The Oklahoma City Thunder will be in Dallas for a win-or-go home Game 6 Saturday evening. After a first-round series where the young Thunder made quick work of a shorthanded Pelicans team, the difficulty level has quickly ratcheted up in the second round, and now OKC stands on the verge of elimination at the hands of the Mavericks.

In the grand scheme of things, the way this series has gone thus far should not be all that surprising. Oklahoma City may have secured the top seed in an ultra competitive Western Conference, but they are still in their first playoff run with this group and are rightfully taking their time to figure things out. On the other hand, Dallas may be a lower seed, but they are a far more experienced group as a whole.

The Mavs are one win away from their second Western Conference Finals appearance in the last three seasons. They have gotten this far through giving the Luka Doncic-Kyrie Irving duo time to mesh, as well as making a few key trades that have drastically leveled up their team defense.

Acquiring P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline has proven massive for Dallas, and first-year center Dereck Lively's impact has been immeasurable for them as well. So as the Thunder look back on the first five games of this series, it has to be hard not to kick themselves at least a little, seeing as they actually helped the Mavericks land two of their three biggest acquisitions of the past year.

OKC helped Dallas acquire Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively

This may seem like something of a Mandela effect with it being so long ago, but OKC is actually indirectly responsible for their current playoff foes being where they are. In a way, they invented the issues they are currently dealing with. The first domino fell last summer, when the Mavs opted to trade back in the draft, letting the Thunder take their 10th overall selection and getting their desired prospect in Dereck Lively with the 12th pick.

From the onset, Lively was a perfect fit next to Doncic, and he helped move the needle for Dallas immediately. But when the Mavericks needed midseason upgrades, they looked for three-point shooting and defensive versatility. They certainly found the latter when they pulled off their trade for Daniel Gafford, sending the Wizards Richaun Holmes and a 2024 first-round pick they originally acquired from the Thunder in the process.

Obviously, the Mavs do not get either of those deals done without the help of the Thunder. OKC General Manager Sam Presti is one of the best in the business and is known for frequently fleecing other teams and making brilliant moves. And not that the dealings he made with Dallas were not still insightful at the time he made them, but it is clear they have come back around to bite the Thunder in a way no one really could have predicted.

Such is life as a front office executive in the NBA. No one will always make the right move every time, and to expect perfection is to be delusional. In instances like this where Oklahoma City now finds itself one loss away from elimination thanks in part to themselves, the best you can do is laugh at the circumstances and find a way to move on and be better.