Mavs Defeat Timberwolves in Game 1 thanks to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving

In Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night, Luka Doncic scored 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 108-105 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Mavericks trailed 102-98 with 3:37 remaining after Anthony Edwards’ 3-pointer, which Kyrie Irving scored 24 of his 30 points in the first half of the game. The Wolves then went on an 8-0 spree that ended with a tip-in with 10.5 seconds remaining. Under head coach Jason Kidd, the Mavericks won the opening game of a series for the first time in six attempts.

Jaden McDaniels scored 24 points to lead the Wolves in his third straight game of 20 or more points, but the Mavericks’ teamwork suppressed Edwards, who was named to his first All-NBA team before the game. Edwards finished with just 19 points. Karl-Anthony Towns of Minnesota finished 6-for-20 from the field and need a late surge to get to 16 points.

This series has a lot of star power, and the Mavericks, at least in the opening game, provided the necessary support from their starting pair, while the Wolves mostly found it difficult to run the offense around them.

Dallas outscored opponents 62–38 in the paint to offset the player’s 6-for–25 shooting from beyond the arc.

Chris Finch, the coach of the Wolves, remarked, “Terrible offense down the stretch: bad shots, turnovers, no composure.” “We’ve got to be better in clutch moments.”

With 4:39 remaining, Towns ignited the Wolves with a deep jumper, a lob to Rudy Gobert for a slam, and a 3-pointer during a 2-minute spurt. Doncic then closed out the game with a 3-pointer to cap off a 10-0 run. With 1:56 remaining, P.J. Washington, who finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds, made a deep shot to give the Mavericks a lead again.

On the subsequent possession, Towns appeared to have knotted the score with a putback slam, but the play was called back for basket interference.

Edwards added 11 rebounds and eight assists despite failing to score in the third quarter.

Neither side had a nine-point advantage.

Game 2 will be played in Minnesota on Friday night.

Before he scored seven points in a row over the first sixty-three seconds of the fourth quarter, Doncic was largely silent. The Mavericks then used that run to go up 13-0 and take a 97-89 lead, which Edwards eventually sealed with a three-pointer following another chaotic possession.

After defeating the defending champion Denver Nuggets and NBA MVP Nikola Jokic in a decisive Game 7 comeback from a 20-point deficit to win the second-round series, the Wolves had two days off. The change from the Nuggets’ methodical and forceful style to the pick-and-roll-heavy Mavericks was seamless.

The Mavericks moved with purpose to prevent the Wolves from consistently setting their half-court defense around NBA Defensive Player of the Year Gobert at the rim. The Wolves regularly lost their opponents off screens for wide-open dunks.

After holding Denver to an average of 85 points throughout their four victories in the previous round, the Wolves and their league-leading defense were not faced with the same kind of unique challenge as Irving’s spectacular outburst on the break and on the drive.

“He got us going. Without him, we would probably be down 20 at halftime,”  Doncic remarked of Irving. “I had to help him in the second half a little bit. So, we switched roles this time.”

With five 3-pointers in the first half, McDaniels—who played his typical tough defense on the perimeter—was also the sparkplug on the other end of the court, but Towns struggled to get shots to fall and Edwards had difficulties finding open lanes.

“He’s an amazing player. We have to put multiple bodies on him,” Doncic remarked of Edwards. “If he’s going one-on-one, it’s kind of tough to stop him.”

After signing Washington and Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline, the Mavericks have improved their defense, as the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, who were eliminated in six games in the previous round, can attest.

Kyle Anderson gave the Wolves a crucial 11 points in the first half, and they have had the better depth in every round thus far. With 15 points, Naz Reid included a fast-break layup and a steal from Doncic to set up Edwards’ 3-pointer at the conclusion of the first quarter, which put the Wolves ahead 33-27 and sparked wild cheers from the fans.

With this squad, which has only made two trips to the Western Conference finals, the Wolves and these long-displeased supporters have ventured into uncharted ground.

Just two years ago, the Mavericks were in this place, but that was before Irving came. Having been a part of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2016 championship run, he is the only key player in this series to have a championship ring.

“No one panicked. There was just a lot of trust, no matter how bad or how good we’re playing,”  Kidd stated.

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