Doncic spearheads Dallas Mavericks’ strong finish for a 108-105 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 1 of the West finals

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Anthony Edwards looks to pass the ball

Luka Doncic led a strong finish for the Dallas Mavericks, making crucial shots, drawing fouls, and playing strong defense. The Mavericks might not be the favorites in this series, but they stole home-court advantage from the Minnesota Timberwolves with this promising start.

Doncic scored 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, while Kyrie Irving added 24 of his 30 in the first half, lifting the Mavericks to a 108-105 victory over the Timberwolves in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night.

Dallas had a 62-38 advantage in points in the paint, compensating for a 6-for-25 performance from deep. “We made important ones,” said Doncic, who scored seven straight points over 63 seconds early in the fourth quarter, sparking a 13-0 run by the Mavericks for a 97-89 lead.

The Mavericks were down 102-98 after a 3-pointer by Anthony Edwards with 3:37 left, before an 8-0 run that the Wolves didn’t stop until a tip-in with 10.5 seconds remaining. For the first time in six tries under coach Jason Kidd, the Mavericks won the first game of a playoff series.

Anthony Edwards jumps to complete the shot

Jaden McDaniels had his third straight 20-plus-point game, scoring 24 points for the Wolves. Edwards, who earned his first All-NBA selection before the game, was held to 19 points due to a strong team effort from the Mavericks. Karl-Anthony Towns needed a late push to reach 16 points, finishing 6 for 20 from the floor.

The star power in this series is strong, and on the first night, the Mavericks got what they needed from their leading duo while the Wolves struggled to run their offense.

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

Towns sparked with a long jumper, a lob to Rudy Gobert for a slam, and a 3-pointer during a 2-minute burst that gave the Wolves the lead with 4:39 to go, leading to a 10-0 run that Doncic ended with a 3-pointer.

P.J. Washington, who had 13 points and seven rebounds, hit a deep shot to put the Mavericks back in front with 1:56 to go. Towns thought he tied the game with a putback dunk on the next possession, but it was waved off for basket interference. Minnesota hosts Game 2 on Friday night.

Anthony Edwards jumps and shoots the ball to the basket

Edwards, who didn’t score in the third quarter, added 11 rebounds and eight assists. “He’s an amazing player. We have to put multiple bodies on him,” Doncic said. “If he’s going 1-on-1, it’s kind of tough to stop him.”

Naz Reid scored 15 points and Kyle Anderson added 11 points off the bench for the Wolves, who had two days off after dethroning defending champion Denver with a Game 7 comeback from a 20-point deficit to win the second-round series.

The transition was sharp from the Nuggets and NBA MVP Nikola Jokic’s deliberate and powerful style to the pick-and-roll-heavy Mavericks, who frequently lost their opponents off screens for wide-open dunks.

They moved with a purpose that kept the Wolves from consistently setting their half-court defense around NBA Defensive Player of the Year Gobert at the rim.

Irving’s impressive bursts on the break and on the drive presented a unique challenge the Wolves and their league-leading defense didn’t face in the last round when they held the Nuggets to an average of 85 points over their four wins.

Luka Doncic celebrates after a goal

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

McDaniels, who played his usual relentless defense on the perimeter, was the catalyst on the other end of the court too with five 3-pointers in the first half, but Towns had trouble getting shots to fall and Edwards found his driving lanes constantly clogged.

“Jaden was the only one that came ready to play tonight,” Edwards said, “and I think everyone else let him down.” The Mavericks have stepped up their defense since adding Daniel Gafford and Washington at the trade deadline, as top-seeded Oklahoma City discovered after losing in six games in the last round.

Doncic contributed as well, breaking up a lob from Mike Conley to Gobert for one of his three steals with 1:06 remaining and the Mavericks leading by two. “No one panicked. There was just a lot of trust, no matter how bad or how good we’re playing,” Kidd said.


By Christopher Kamila

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