Main key to a Thunder Game 5 win over Dallas Mavericks

May 13, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II (2) and forward P.J.
May 13, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II (2) and forward P.J. / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off a shocking comeback against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 and, subsequently, tied the series up at 2-2.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander flexed his superstar muscles by scoring an efficient 34 points, including 10 in the final six minutes of action. Rookie Chet Holmgren, meanwhile, contributed 18 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks on 6-of-9 shooting. 

Outside of those two, however, the Thunder shot a mere 26 percent from the field as a collective, so the fact that they won is highly impressive. OKC raised themselves from the dead, but a crucial game five looms.

How can they protect home-court and snatch a 3-2 series lead? Well, the answer revolves around one key factor: Toughness.

Thunder must play with toughness to win Game 5 against Mavericks

The Thunder were shooting poorly, mentally frustrated, and lacked urgency throughout the majority of Game 4. Then, it appeared that one single event changed the course of the game and, potentially, the series.

With just over eight minutes left, Dereck Lively II and Dallas taunted and talked trash to Oklahoma City after a dunk, thus leading to a small altercation led by veteran Kenrich Williams. No fists were thrown, but this young Thunder squad reacted as if Dallas pounded them in the face. 

Williams’ spirit immediately spread throughout the team. They got angry, chippy, mean, gritty, and finally became the aggressor.

From that point on, the Thunder closed out the game on a 28-16 run and fought tooth-and-nail for every rebound, loose ball, and possession. 

If they are going to advance, then that’s the needed mentality for these final three games. The Thunder have to match Dallas’ physicality and bury any timid thoughts or actions.

It’s time to get into the mud with them and roll around. 

As the Celtics legend Bill Russell once said, “concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.”

OKC has seen all of the coverages and knows how to attack Dallas after four games. At this point, mental toughness will decide the winner of these evenly-matched squads.