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PJ Washington ‘hoops’ for Mavericks vs Thunder, joins list of OKC playoff killers

DALLAS – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shook his head and hung on every syllable of PJ Washington’s name.

Maybe saying it out loud made the unimaginable feel real.

Washington’s final three-point barrage on Saturday afternoon was crucial to the Mavericks’ Game 3 win over the Thunder, which gave Dallas a 2-1 lead in the series.

Washington, perhaps Dallas’ third-best player, scored 27 points. Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren, the Thunder’s second and third best players, combined for 29 points.

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May 11, 2024;  Dallas, Texas, USA;  Dallas Mavericks forward PJ Washington (25) dunks past Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7) during the second half during game three of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at the American Airlines Center.May 11, 2024;  Dallas, Texas, USA;  Dallas Mavericks forward PJ Washington (25) dunks past Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7) during the second half during game three of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at the American Airlines Center.

May 11, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward PJ Washington (25) dunks past Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7) during the second half during game three of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at the American Airlines Center.

“He’s shooting hoops,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We have to turn that water off if we want to win the series.”

For whatever reason, something about the Thunder brings out the best in Washington.

“When he was in Charlotte, it felt like every shot went in,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said.

Washington was already a Thunder killer, but now he’s a Thunder playoff killer.

It got me thinking: What other under-the-radar players like Washington have caused the Thunder problems in the playoffs?

Here’s one surprise Thunder killer from each run.

More: Mussatto: OKC Thunder now in big trouble in NBA playoffs thanks to Mavericks’ 16-0 run

Mavericks forward PJ Washington (25) celebrates for Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) after dunking during the second half of a 105-101 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.Mavericks forward PJ Washington (25) celebrates for Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) after dunking during the second half of a 105-101 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Mavericks forward PJ Washington (25) celebrates for Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) after dunking during the second half of a 105-101 victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Derek Fisher, Lakers (2009-10)

It’s still crazy that Oklahoma City’s very first playoff opponent was a Kobe Bryant-led Lakers team that went on to win the NBA title.

Of course, Bryant and Pau Gasol were the mainstays of that team, but 35-year-old Derek Fisher helped the Thunder get there.

Fisher, a 35% 3-point shooter that season, went 14 of 30 (47%) from behind the arc in that series, which the Lakers won in six.

Fisher later helped the Thunder win more than a few playoff games.

JJ Barea, Mavericks (2010-11)

The 6-foot-4 Puerto Rican drove Thunder fans crazy.

Despite playing the seventh-most minutes for the Mavericks in the 2011 Western Conference Finals against the Thunder, Barea was Dallas’ fourth-leading scorer.

Barea averaged 11.4 points on 48% shooting. He went 6-for-13 from three. He had 15 assists against three turnovers.

Stephen Jackson, Spurs (2011-2012)

Jackson was traded twice at the 2012 trade deadline, first from Milwaukee to Golden State, and then from Golden State to San Antonio.

The 33-year-old Jackson gave the Spurs good minutes against the Thunder despite being near the end of his career.

Jackson averaged 11.8 points in the series on Alien shooting: 66% from the field, 68% (17 of 25) from 3-point range and 89% from the foul line.

OKC overcame Jackson’s out-of-body series to advance to the NBA Finals.

More: What sank Thunder vs Mavericks in Game 3 loss? Shai Gilgeous-Alexander needs help

Patrick Beverley, Rockets (2012-13)

Beverley didn’t have a great series, but he killed the Thunder’s chances of a long playoff run when he crashed into Russell Westbrook’s knee in Game 2 of a first-round series.

Westbrook missed the remainder of the playoffs with a torn meniscus. The Thunder got past the Rockets before losing to the Grizzlies in the second round.

Danny Green, Spurs (2013-14)

Washington’s three-point shooting could change the series, like Green’s in 2014.

Green shot 20 of 37 (54%) from deep in the 2014 Western Conference Finals. Green was 7 of 10 from three in the Spurs’ 35-point win in Game 2.

San Antonio won the series in six.

Harrison Barnes, Warriors (2015-16)

Game 6 Klay, I know, but Klay Thompson is too good to qualify for this list.

Barnes may be a reach, but he had a good run, scoring 48% overall, including 10 of 19 from three.

It was Barnes’ last year in the Bay before you know what happened.

Lou Williams, Rockets (2016-17)

His Rockets stint was short, but Williams had a series against the Thunder.

He was Houston’s second leading scorer, averaging 18.8 points on 48% shooting. Williams shot 41% from three-point range and 88% from the foul line.

The Rockets won the series in the first round in five. Williams scored 22 points off the bench in the closeout game.

More: How OKC Thunder’s Mark Daigneault rose from UConn manager to NBA coach of the year

Joe Ingles, Jazz (2017-18)

The series where Ingles punked Paul George. What a bizarre beef.

Ingles played excellent defense against George, but the Australian forward was even better offensively.

Ingles averaged 14.2 points on 44% shooting. He shot an impressive 47% (21 of 45) from 3-point range as the Jazz won the first-round series in six.

Al-Farouq Aminu, Trailblazers (2018-19)

This first-round series, which Portland won in five minutes, is known for two things: Damian Lillard’s iconic walk-off shot and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Don’t you remember Aminu’s impact? Me neither, but the title of honor killer had to go to someone.

Aminu averaged 11 points and seven rebounds in the series while knocking down 41% of his three-pointers.

Robert Covington, Rockets (2019-20)

The seven-game bubble series didn’t feel like real life.

But it happened, and Covington thrived against the Thunder. He averaged 13.3 points on 50% shooting while doing everything defensively: 2.4 steals and 1.6 blocks per game.

The Thunder had 37 steals in the series. Covington himself had seventeen.

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Joe Mussatto is a sports columnist for The Oklahoman. Do you have a story idea for Joe? Email him at [email protected]. Support Joe’s work and that of other Oklahoma journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at Subscribe.oklahoman.com.

This article originally appeared in the Oklahoman: Mavs’ PJ Washington joins list of Thunder killers in NBA playoffs