Mavericks steal home court, take 1-0 lead in WCF

Written by: William Petersen

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The Dallas Mavericks set the tone early after knocking off the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-105 on the road to steal home court advantage in game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Dallas was led by their stellar backcourt duo of scoring leader Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving who combined for 63 points in a statement win to determine who will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. Minnesota came out with energy after making their first WCF since 2004 but could not find a way to contain the Mavericks’ stars as well as shooting 61% from the free throw line. The inability to hit free throws down the stretch almost ended Dallas’ season against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the previous round but Dallas got back to fundamentals and finished the game shooting 49.4% from the field and 94% from the line. The major stat to look at in this game is that of the Mavericks’ percentage from beyond the arc, only hitting six threes while taking 25, equalling 24%. The Mavericks counterbalanced their poor shooting from deep by scoring 62 points in the paint against a Minnesota team who prides themselves on defense. Minnesota was hard pressed to contain Doncic and Irving late, which led to the Mavericks nullifying home court advantage in a series that should easily go to at least six games.

After a back and forth series with the OKC Thunder and ultimately winning in six games, the Mavericks seemed to have found cohesion amongst their entire roster. This cohesion was apparent tonight between its two best players, Doncic and Irving who went for 33 and 30 even though the two only hit three 3-pointers in a game that was determined in the paint and around the rim. Doncic and Irving are two of the best finishers in the NBA and Minnesota seemed to be worn down late in game 1 after Doncic displayed why he won the NBA Scoring Title this season, scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter. P.J. Washington provided 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in a game where he did not shoot as efficiently as he would have liked, but still found ways to impact the game on both ends of the floor. Derrick Lively II came off the bench and provided 9 points and 11 rebounds against one of the best rebounding teams in the league. Dallas will need to be more efficient shooting the three in game 2 if they want to find themselves going back home up 2-0 but if the Mavericks continue to score 60 plus points in the paint they might not need to shoot the deep ball well. Look for the Timberwolves to bring more double teams to Doncic and Irving in game 2 and force players like Washington and Tim Hardaway Jr. to make shots if they want to split the first two games at home.

Minnesota is now in unfamiliar territory for the first time after game 1, winning their previous game 1’s against Phoenix and Denver. Minnesota did not play a terrible game but they definitely showed holes in what is supposed to be the most efficient defense in the league after getting dominated inside. Anthony Edwards struggled again shooting the ball, going 6-16 from the field but 5-12 from three, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists. Edwards athleticism allows him to make an impact even if he is having a cold shooting night, nearly completing the triple-double but was not the leading scorer for Minnesota tonight. Jaden McDaniels continued to have another solid shooting night, finishing with 24 points on 9-16 shooting and 6-9 from three, racking up 19 of those 24 points in the first quarter. Karl-Anthony Towns had another rough shooting night, 6-20 from the field and 2-9 from three. If Minnesota wants to split these first two games they are going to need KAT to shoot the ball better, especially from beyond the arc. Minnesota shot 42.7% tonight and 36.7% from three but the real kicker was their abysmal 61% free throw percentage. Leaving seven points at the line stacks up quickly in a game that did not have a double digit lead the entire game. The Timberwolves should come into game 2 swinging and will tighten up defensively in hopes of making Dallas’ star backcourt uncomfortable on Friday in game 2 on TNT. I’m almost certain that Chris Finch will give Edwards the green light and if he finds momentum early, Edwards can easily take over a game with his offense alone.