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Luka Doncic and the Mavs show growth, live down Game 4 collapse

A lot of growth transpired Wednesday night in Oklahoma City. For the home-team Thunder, it was growing pains. For the Dallas Mavericks, it was growing up — and together.

Led by Luka Doncic, who adopted a strikingly more mature approach to the referees and magnanimous attitude toward his teammates, the Mavericks were even-keeled in every way as they secured a 104-92 win for a 3-2 best-of-seven lead in the Western Conference semifinals. Game 6, and the opportunity to punch their ticket to a second Western Conference finals in three years, is Saturday in Dallas.

The Thunder, making their first appearance in the playoffs in four years, and having swept New Orleans 4-0 in the first round, looked like a group playing in its first pivotal Game 5 of a playoff series. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the most seasoned postseason performer they have, was the exception, providing 30 points and eight assists. He would have had more of the latter had his less experienced teammates knocked down the open shots he created for them. SGA made 12 of his 22 shots (54.5%) and two of his four 3-pointers (50%), while the rest of the Thunder shot 25-for-65 (38%) overall and 8-for-36 on 3-pointers (22%). 

"We got a lot of good looks," Gilgeous-Alexander said diplomatically. "They just didn't go in."

The poise by Doncic in particular, and the Mavs in general, was markedly different from Game 4 on Monday. Doncic spent nearly that entire night giving the officials disgusted looks or dismissive waves after every call and non-call, clearly unhappy with their performance. The referees did not respond in kind even though they could have, Doncic having more turnovers (7) than made shots (6) and missing a crucial free throw in the final seconds that sealed a