Home Editor Picks Biggest takeaways from Mavericks-Timberwolves Game 1 of the West finals

Biggest takeaways from Mavericks-Timberwolves Game 1 of the West finals

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Biggest takeaways from Mavericks-Timberwolves Game 1 of the West finals

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The NBA’s Western Conference finals got off to a dynamic start as the Dallas Mavericks took Game 1 against the Minnesota Timberwolves in a Minneapolis thriller on Wednesday.

Entering the fourth quarter trailing 83-82, the Mavericks rallied behind 15 of Luka Doncic‘s team-high 33 points in the final period to pull out a 108-105 win.

The game was close throughout as neither Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards nor Doncic found much consistency during the first half. Kyrie Irving poured in 24 points in the first half, however, to keep Dallas in the game, before Doncic found his footing over the final two quarters.

The teams traded double-digit scoring runs, with the Mavericks establishing an eight-point lead following a 13-0 spurt, only to see the Timberwolves respond with a 10-0 burst to get back into the game. Dallas’ defense responded and held Minnesota scoreless over three crucial minutes down the stretch of the fourth to close out Game 1 and steal home-court advantage.

Jaden McDaniels led the Wolves with 24 points, while Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns combined to go 12-for-36 from the field.

With the Mavs striking first, our NBA Insiders look at the biggest moments of Game 1, what adjustments can be made in Friday’s Game 2 in Minneapolis (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT) and which role players will be key the rest of the way for each team.

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Legler: Luka’s late-game heroics ‘best I’ve seen’

Tim Legler joins Scott Van Pelt and breaks down how pivotal Luka Doncic was on offense and defense in the Mavericks’ Game 1 win over the Timberwolves.

1. What is your biggest takeaway from Game 1?

Tim MacMahon: The Mavericks are in uncharted territory, winning a Game 1 under coach Jason Kidd for the first time in six tries. Dallas’ star duo of Doncic and Irving — coming off a pretty quiet second-round series, by their standards — took turns carrying Dallas in the opener. Irving scored 24 of his 30 points in the first half to keep the Mavs within striking distance. Doncic filled the closer role, scoring 15 of his 33 in the fourth quarter and making a couple of clutch defensive stops.

Dave McMenamin: In what should be a long, competitive series, the Timberwolves already showed that failing to execute on the little things can make the difference. With 1:41 to go in Game 1, Towns was called for offensive goaltending; with 1:06 remaining, Mike Conley‘s lob to Rudy Gobert was stolen by Doncic. Despite those critical miscues, the Wolves found a sliver of hope when, down by four points with less than two seconds remaining, Conley drew a 3-point shooting foul. To give Minnesota a chance, he had to make the first two free throws then purposely miss the third to allow for a tip-in opportunity. He missed the second, thwarting any chance at a long shot comeback. The Wolves were 11-for-18 from the line; the Mavs went 16-for-17.

Brian Windhorst: You could feel the big-game experience of Doncic and Irving as compared to Edwards and Towns, and that became a defining storyline in Dallas’ Game 1 win. Irving proved it early, keeping the Mavs on pace while Minnesota virtually couldn’t miss. Doncic, meanwhile, proved it late with a brilliant individual scoring effort.


2. What is one big adjustment we could see in Game 2?

MacMahon: It’s time for the Mavs to tweak their tag-team center rotation to tilt the minutes heavily toward rookie Dereck Lively II. Changing the starting lineup would be too drastic at this point, especially with a lead in the series, but it’s impossible to ignore that the Mavs are plus-106 with Lively on the floor in the playoffs and minus-62 with Daniel Gafford in the lineup.

McMenamin: The Wolves slowed down in the second half, scoring just 43 points as compared to 62 in the first two quarters. After the defeat, Towns and Edwards lamented Minnesota’s meager 12 fast-break points. Edwards also got on himself for letting Irving beat him down the court for a layup after a made basket by the Wolves. Minnesota sounds ready to pick up the pace in Game 2.

Windhorst: The Mavs have announced their game plan: They will pack the paint and dare Minnesota to beat them with the outside shot. Dallas wants to put multiple bodies between Edwards, Towns and the rim. Edwards had to work extremely hard to create space for himself throughout Game 1, and Towns had no space when he was inside. In the first half, the Wolves were 11-of-25 on 3s. In the second half, Dallas’ strategy started to work, as Minnesota went 7-of-24 from deep, and Edwards and Towns were a combined 12-of-36 from the field. That is a winning formula.


3. Which role player will be the biggest X factor the rest of the series?

MacMahon: P.J. Washington, the Mavs’ surprise star of the second round. He struggled from 3-point range for most of the opener, but he hit a clutch corner 3 in Game 1. He also was the primary defender on Towns, who was 6-of-20 from the floor. If Towns can’t get in a groove, it will be tough for the Timberwolves to win this series.

McMenamin: Jaden McDaniels. It’s hard to ask for much more than what he gave in Game 1, especially through the first three quarters. Defensively, Doncic shot just 4-for-12 with McDaniels as the primary defender. Offensively, McDaniels scored 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting. But the fourth quarter was a different story: Doncic shot 4-for-7 against McDaniels, while McDaniels went 1-for-3 with two turnovers. Despite fading late, McDaniels should continue to have his fingerprints on both ends for the Wolves.

Windhorst: Mike Conley. Any lingering impacts following his Achilles tendon injury are hard to predict, but the Wolves badly needed offensive organization and his calming influence down the stretch. Conley’s presence wasn’t felt in crunch time of Game 1, a crucial pivot point for the Wolves moving forward.

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