June 23, 2024

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Attitude of the situation, with prediction

Attitude of the situation, with prediction

NBA Western Conference Finals: Dallas Mavericks vs. Timberwolves

Game 1: Wednesday, May 22 at Target Center at 7:30 p.m

Game 2: Friday, May 24 at Target Center at 7:30 p.m

Game 3: Sunday, May 26 in Dallas, 7 p.m

Game 4: Tuesday, May 28 in Dallas, 7:30 p.m

If necessary

Game 5: Thursday, May 30 at Target Center at 7:30 p.m

Game 6: Saturday, June 1 in Dallas, 7:30 p.m

Game 7: Monday, June 3 at Target Center at 7:30 p.m

First two rounds for the Timberwolves

The third-seeded Wolves swept sixth-seeded Phoenix in the first round and beat second-seeded Denver in a seven-game Western Conference semifinal series.

Their comeback from a 20-point deficit early in the third quarter on Sunday to clinch a 98-90 win was the biggest in league Game 7 history and sent the defending champions home. The Wolves won their first two games in Denver, including 106-80 in Game 2. They then lost the next two games at Target Center and Game 5 in Denver before winning by 45 points in Game 6.

Key number

20 Years separate the Wolves’ first and only appearance in the Western Conference Finals. League MVP Kevin Garnett led them there. In 2024, so did young star Anthony Edwards and the Wolves’ stifling defense.

Did you know?

The two teams have met only once in the playoffs, and that has not happened since Dallas swept the five-game series 3-0 in the first round in 2002. The Mavericks lost to Sacramento 4-1 in the second round.

The first two rounds for the Mavericks

They beat the fourth-seeded Clippers in six games after drawing 2-2 in four games, winning Game 5 123-93 in Los Angeles and Game 6 114-101 at home. Kyrie Irving scored 30 goals and Luka Doncic scored 28 goals due to a knee injury in the playoff.

The fifth-seeded Mavericks defeated top-seeded Oklahoma City in six games as well. The two teams split the first two games in Los Angeles and the next two in OKC before the Mavericks again won the final two games 104-92 on the road and 117-116 at home.

Key number

3 The statistical categories in which Doncic leads the Mavs during the postseason: scoring (27.2), rebounds (9.7) and assists (9.1). He also leads in transitions (4.1).

Did you know?

The Wolves have won three of the four regular-season meetings between the two teams, not since January. But Doncic and Irving have only played in one game, a 115-108 win over the Mavs on Jan. 7. Without one or the other, or both, Wolves won 119-101 and 118-100 in December and 121-87 in January. .

Individual confrontations

Point guard

Mike Conley, Wolves

Anthony Edwards only had two words to explain his team’s lopsided 115-70 Game 6 win that followed a 112-97 Game 5 loss in Denver: “Mike Conley.” Conley missed Game 5 with Achilles tendon soreness, then returned to play 31 minutes in Game 6 and 39 minutes in Game 7. Now the 17-year-old pro is back in the conference finals for the first time since his team at Memphis. Lost to San Antonio in four games in 2013. “It means a lot,” he said. “I just want these guys to understand, I don’t think they understand what they just did. To achieve what they have and get to the Western Conference Finals is a great opportunity. Don’t take it for granted. Celebrate this moment now but be ready to go, there’s another team waiting for you.” “

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Luka Doncic, Mavericks

He does it all, averaging nearly a triple-double: Doncic led the NBA in scoring (33.9 points per game) and was second in assists (9.8 per game) and 3-pointers made (284). He also averaged 9.2 rebounds per game. At 6-7, he plays the point and pushes the Mavericks at a certain pace. Meanwhile, Irving, his backcourt mate, plays the ball more often than not. Doncic set a career-high and franchise record by scoring 73 points against Atlanta in January. He set the franchise single-season scoring record, surpassing former No. 1 overall pick Mark Aguirre. He is also the first player in NBA history to average 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in a single season. “He’s one of a kind,” Mavericks forward P.J. Washington Jr. said. “He’s a great player, and when he gets going, we play our best basketball. We’re glad he’s out there every night, pushing us forward.”

edge/ Mavericks

Shoot the guard

Anthony Edwards, Wolves

The man they call You was already thinking after Sunday’s Game 7 win about his next game and his next defensive assignment: Dallas’ Kyrie Irving. Denver game-planned all series to shut him down and forced him to have poor shooting nights in Games 5 (5-for-15) and 7 (6-for-24), but do you think that frustrated him? Apparently not, judging by his smile and demeanor. His teammate Conley said he told Edwards only one thing: Keep shooting. “I didn’t say anything about anything,” Conley said. “I don’t even know what he called it. I told him, ‘Man, keep going. I don’t care if you miss the next 10. I just want you to be aggressive,’ and that’s what he does. That’s what he is.”

Kyrie Irving, Mavericks

He was re-signed as a free agent in July, and the scoring machine, especially in the final quarters, is the eight-time All-Star. He and his colleague Doncic were the first duo in team history to score 30 points each in their first playoff game against the Clippers last month. He played in 58 games, starting all of them, and averaged 25.6 ppg. He averaged 21.1 in the playoffs. Irving and his team trailed OKC by 17 points at the start of the third quarter and still clinched the second-round series 4-2 against the Thunder, winning 117-116 at home on Saturday. “Behind 17 in a closeout is not the position you want to be in,” Irving said. “But that’s where we found ourselves, and we had to respond, the way we’ve been responding all season. He hugged his family on the court afterward, hugged the Mavericks family in the locker room and said he held back a tear or two. “I feel like getting back to “This situation took a long time, in the conference finals.”

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edge/ Mavericks, barely

Small striker

Jaden McDaniels, Wolves

When he steps up offensively — as he did with 21 and 23 points in Games 6 and 7, with three 3-pointers in each — the Wolves become a different, more difficult team to defend. Defensively, he’s very consistent, guarding Devin Booker or Bradley Beal in one series, and Jamal Murray in another. “He was the guy that didn’t get as much attention as he should have, but he had the goal in the first two rounds,” Conley said. “Four or five of the best goalscorers you’ll meet in our game. And he’s done it without saying a word. He doesn’t need the ball. He hustles and gets it as much as he can. In the last two games especially, I think he’s taken it upon himself to be aggressive.” “On offense, not just defensively, we need him to do that more.”

Derrick Jones Jr., Mavericks

The eight-year veteran has been here in the conference finals before, but with Miami in the East en route to an NBA Finals loss to the Lakers in the 2020 COVID-19 bubble. But not this way, as a rookie getting big minutes in Defending James Harden in the Clippers series and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the OKC series. He still claims that opposing defenses don’t give his shooting the proper respect, perhaps because he’s a defensive factor. “I like playing defense,” he said after the Mavs clinched the six-game series with OKC. “I like to go out there and make someone’s night a little harder.” He’ll get a tough assignment in this series, most likely Edwards.

edge/ Wolves

Power forward

Karl-Anthony Towns, Wolves

He got what he deserved after Sunday’s Game 7 clincher, which secured his first trip to the Western Finals in his nine professional seasons. His coach praised him for sacrificing some of his game, being willing and able to guard future Hall of Famers Kevin Durant in one extended series and Nikola Jokic in the next. “I’ve been here nine years and I talked about wanting to win and do something special here,” Towns said. “All the failures and disappointments that come with it have led to this moment. For me, being here for nine years. I’ve seen it all and seen it all. To be here with these guys and this team, it’s very satisfying.”

PJ Washington Jr., Mavericks

The Mavericks sent two players and a first-round pick to Charlotte at the February trade deadline in order to extend the power forward now in his fifth season. He set a playoff record with seven 3-pointers and scored 29 points in a 119-110 Game 2 win over OKC in the second round. He butters his bread by shooting threes when defenses collapse on Doncic and Irving. He made seven 3-pointers twice before his career, but wasn’t in the spotlight in the playoffs. “It means a lot,” he said. “It means everything.” He was also clutch in the fourth quarter of OKC’s closing game. Towns, a former Kentucky Wildcats player, will be defending.

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edge/ Wolves

center

Rudy Gobert, Wolverhampton

When pundits thought Gobert would serve his team better off the bench in the fourth quarter Sunday, he was named Offensive Player of the Year, not Defensive Player of the Year. He scored nine points in that quarter, using some unusual techniques: at the free throw line (4-for-5) and on a 13-foot curling jumper. Conley, perhaps half-jokingly, described that changing basket as “the happiest thing I’ve ever seen,” and Jaden McDaniels said, “I don’t even know. God is on our side.”

Daniel Gafford, Mavericks

The other trade deadline acquisition, a 6-10 fifth-year center from Arkansas, was part of a three-way deal with Washington and OKC. He scored 19 points in 17 minutes off the bench in his Mavs debut in February. He led the NBA in field goal percentage by a wide margin at 72.5. He shot 78% with the Mavs after the trade. He was acquired to open alleys from Irving and Doncic. “Jump high and drop the ball low,” Gafford said.

edge/ Wolves

seat

The Wolves have proven tough throughout the Denver series and should be again with Sixth Man of the Year Naz Reed and Nickel Alexander-Walker providing devastating defense with their three-point shooting. Mavs second team All-Rookie selection Dereck Lively is, well, lively and could cause trouble for the Wolves.

edge/ Wolves

Training

Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd is in his third season in Dallas, where he played. He coached the Mavs this season to at least 50 wins for the second time in those three years. Before that, he coached for four seasons in Milwaukee, one season in Brooklyn, and spent two seasons as an assistant with the Lakers. This is his fifth season in eight practices in the playoffs. Wolves coach Chris Finch is moving better and moving around the bench more after having knee surgery before the start of the Denver series.

edge/ Wolves

prediction

The Mav’s backcourt is massive, and the Wolves have faced both Irving and Doncic just once this season. Doncic has struggled with injury and illness in these playoffs. Defense should be easier for the Cities now that Durant and Jokic aren’t on the scouting report, but it’s still the X-factor. As it progresses, the wolves go several ways. Like everyone else, the Mavs will try to keep the ball out of Edwards’ hands. The trade deadline additions in the frontcourt make them grittier and more physical.

Wolves in seven