Luka Doncic Took Over Late To Lead The Mavs To A Game 1 Win In Minnesota

The Western Conference Finals lived up to the hype in Game 1, as the Mavs and Timberwolves delivered a thrilling opener to their series, with Dallas swiping homecourt with a 108-105 road win on Wednesday night.

The game was tight throughout, with the biggest lead of the game being seven points for both teams — Minnesota in the second quarter and Dallas in the fourth. Neither squad was able to fully seize control, in large part due to the defensive effort of both. It was hard work on both sides to create consistent offense, and for the first three quarters the lead stars on both sides struggled to get going, as both defenses keyed in on slowing down Luka Doncic and Anthony Edwards.

They got support early from Kyrie Irving and Jaden McDaniels, respectively, with the Wolves taking a three-point halftime lead thanks to a strong three-point shooting half. They continued to have the three-point advantage in the third, thanks largely to Naz Reid coming off the bench to provide a lift, but they were not able to get to the rim against Dallas and that kept them from being in great rhythm.

Dallas had the opposite issue, as they were more effective from two-point range but were ice cold from three for most of the night. Even so, their defense and commitment to getting downhill kept them in the ball game until they finally got Doncic going in the fourth quarter. The star had 15 of his 33 points in the fourth, sparking a 13-0 Dallas run with three straight buckets to take the lead and (briefly) control of the game.

However, on the other side, Karl-Anthony Towns led a 13-1 response to push Minnesota back in front, as the big man finally emerged from an offensive slumber to hit some big shots and create some big plays with Edwards still not looking right — although he would hit a couple fourth quarter threes.

As was the case all game, the Mavs had an answer for Minnesota’s run, as they finally saw some threes go down, first by Luka and then by PJ Washington who had a rough night otherwise.

With under two minutes to go, it looked like Towns had tied the game with a putback dunk, but it was called a goaltend on the floor and quickly confirmed on a review (even though it looked very close).

From that point, it was Doncic that closed things out on both ends, first breaking up a lob to tie the game and then hitting the critical bucket to push Dallas’ lead out to four.

Things would get a touch dicey at the end when Josh Green fouled Mike Conley on a three in a four-point game, but Conley missed the second free throw before needing to purposefully miss the last, and Minnesota couldn’t tip it out to a shooter with two seconds left.

Doncic finished with 33 points and eight assists, while Kyrie had 30, as the two stars carried most of the offensive burden on a night where shots were not falling for the others. Dallas was just 6-of-25 from three, with Luka hitting three of those, but they won the rebounding battle despite Minnesota’s size, with Dereck Lively being big off the bench with 11 boards and seven on the offensive end, and simply got more down the stretch from their key guys.

For the Wolves, it will be a loss they’re likely frustrated with as they got a big Jaden McDaniels game (24 points) and Naz Reid was terrific off the bench with 15, but their stars simply weren’t good enough. Edwards finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists on 6-of-16 shooting, but wasn’t the assertive, aggressive threat they need to try and break down Dallas’ defensive shape. Towns had the late flurry that almost redeemed his night, but he struggled mightily in the first three quarters and finished with 16 points on 6-of-20 shooting. Those two simply have to be better if the Wolves are going to make the Finals.

There are other adjustments to make, like mixing up some coverages when Luka and Kyrie get rolling against their drop, but really the defensive game plan didn’t feel like the issue. Their best players have to rise to the occasion, and while tired legs from Game 7 seemed to be a factor, there are no two day breaks anymore in the conference finals so they’re just going to have to get that juice back for Game 2 on Friday.