Timberwolves stave off elimination, force Game 5 in WCF

Written by: William Petersen

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The Minnesota Timberwolves avoid the dreaded sweep after holding off the Dallas Mavericks 105-100 in the Western Conference Finals to force Game 5 in Minneapolis on Thursday night. After losing three straight, Minnesota came into their third elimination game of the playoffs and got back to their roots, defense. The Timberwolves forced 15 turnovers, scored 30 points off of turnovers, and limited the dynamic backcourt duo of Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic to only 44 combined points, their lowest combined points total so far this series. Doncic still provided a 28 point, 15 rebound, and 10 assist triple-double in the loss but was held to a dismal 7-21 shooting and 4-11 from three. Doncic’s shooting troubles stemmed from Anthony Edwards’ holding Luka to 5-15 shooting when he was his primary defender. You could tell the entire Timberwolves roster followed Ant’s lead as Karl-Anthony Towns finally had an efficient shooting night, 25 points on 9-13 shooting and 4-5 from three. Everyone in Minnesota’s starting fived scored in double figures forcing the Mavericks to take at least one more trip to Minnesota for another closeout game on the road.

Anthony Edwards will not be welcomed back to Dallas anytime soon after torching the Mavericks for 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists and hitting a clutch three with less than 40 seconds left to put Minnesota up by five. Edwards’ aggressive scoring night allowed the floor to open up for the rest of the Timberwolves’ supporting cast with Rudy Gobert finishing with a 13 point 10 rebound triple-double and Mike Conley adding 14 points, 7 assists, and 4 steals. Karl-Anthony Towns’ bounceback shooting night helped alleviate some of Ant’s scoring pressure and was a major factor in spacing out the Mavericks’ defense. The only eye sore in the Timberwolves win was their lack of free throw makes, finishing 64% at the line. If Minnesota is going to force a Game 6 they are going to have to hit their free throws at home in their soon to be fourth elimination game of the postseason. I expect Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns to continue to have the green light on Thursday night and would not be surprised to see Ant go for thirty plus in another legacy defining game for the young superstar. If Minnesota can continue to play their brand of defense and limit the Dallas backcourt to under 50 combined points, they should find themselves back on a plane to Dallas in the near future. Minnesota is now 3-0 this postseason in elimination games and seem to thrive when their backs are against the wall.

The Dallas Mavericks find themselves in another closeout game scenario for the third time this playoffs, where they are now 2-1 after tonight’s loss to the Timberwolves. Luka Doncic recorded his sixth triple-double of the playoffs in a loss that ultimately comes from Kyrie Irving’s rough shooting night, especially from three. Irving finished with 16 points, 2 rebounds, and 4 assists on 6-18 shooting and 1-6 from three. In the first three games of this series Irving has averaged 27.6 points on 52 % shooting, which was a major factor as to why the Mavericks went up 3-0. With Minnesota being able to slow down Irving, Luka was forced to take tougher shots against a solid on ball defender in Anthony Edwards. It did not help either that the Mavericks’ next highest scorer was Jaden Hardy with 13 points off the bench as Dallas struggled to make shots late to close out a desperate Timberwolves squad. Luka Doncic will have to shoot better than 33% and Kyrie Irving will need to score at least 25 plus points if the Mavericks want to put the Timberwolves to bed on their own court. If Luka and Kyrie can have efficient nights and Dallas dominates the glass, Minnesota might be on their way to the beach if Anthony Edwards and KAT do not replicate their scoring from Game 4. Look for Game 5 to be an absolute barn burner and I would not be surprised to see more WCF basketball this weekend in Dallas if the Mavericks fail to win two closeout games in a row.