Kyrie Irving reveals key part of Thunder's game plan Mavericks must expose

Dallas Mavericks, Kyrie Irving, P.J. Washington
Dallas Mavericks, Kyrie Irving, P.J. Washington / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight is the biggest game of the Dallas Mavericks' playoff run thus far as they battle the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of the second round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs.

Dallas is coming off a huge Game 3 win over the Thunder to take a commanding 2-1 lead, and now they have a chance to take a crucial 3-1 lead at home tonight.

In the win on Saturday, Kyrie Irving took over in the fourth quarter as he finished 22 points and 14 of these points were in the second half. Irving locked in during the clutch when the Mavs needed him most, but the story of the last two games has been P.J. Washington.

Washington finished with 27 points on the night while shooting 11-23 from the field and 5-12 from downtown, and he was a massive X-factor in the win. He was drilling his open shots, scoring out of the low post, and even finishing above the rim in transition.

Kyrie Irving reveals part of Thunder's game plan Mavericks must expose

This has been the best two-game stretch of the year for Washington, and the Mavs must continue feeding him the rock and letting him cook.

While Washington arguably outplayed both Luka Doncic and Irving in Game 3, this seems to be all part of the Thunder's game plan. After the game, Irving dove into the Thunder's game plan and talked about how leaving Washington open was part of Oklahoma City Thunder's game plan. He said the Mavs need to "make them pay for that" and continued to harp on how great Washington was in Game 3.

Irving said the team wants to continue to feed Washington confidence, and the Mavericks must destroy this part of the Thunder's plan if they're going to keep leaving him open. Oklahoma City's main focus is clearly stopping Irving and Doncic, and even Mark Daigneault talked about how stopping Washington wasn't one of their priorities ahead of Game 3.

Daigneault said that Washington has always played better against the Thunder, but that "you have to determine what your priorities are. If you have 10 priorities against a team, then that's where you really hemorrhage."

This point by Daigneault is 100 percent valid considering that they have to prioritize slowing down Doncic and Irving, but the Mavs have to use this to their advantage and put the Thunder away early by getting Washington involved early and often.

The Thunder could have a slight switch of their game plan by trying to run him off the 3-point line, but if they don't, Washington needs to continue to let it fly with confidence and force the Thunder to adjust accordingly and focus on stopping him.

Washington's impact has been much more than just a shooter, and his momentum from Games 2 and 3 could carry into Game 4 tonight.

For all the latest on Kyrie Irving, P.J. Washington, and the Dallas Mavericks throughout the 2024 NBA Playoffs, stay tuned.