June 16, 2024

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How Doncic and Irving led the Mavericks to a Game 3 victory over the Timberwolves in the Western Conference Finals: 3 quick points

How Doncic and Irving led the Mavericks to a Game 3 victory over the Timberwolves in the Western Conference Finals: 3 quick points

Written by Tim Cato, John Krawczynski, Zach Harper, and Hunter Patterson

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving led the Mavericks to a 116-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 3 on Sunday, giving Dallas a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

Dončić finished with 33 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals on 5-of-11 shooting from 3-point range. Irving also had 33 points and four assists on 3-of-6 shooting from long range.

Anthony Edwards had his best game of the series, posting a team-high 26 points, nine boards and nine assists. Karl-Anthony Towns’ struggles continued as he had 14 points and 11 rebounds on 5-of-18 shooting. Towns did not score more than 16 points in this series.

The Mavericks are now one win away from the NBA Finals. Game 4 will be Tuesday in Dallas.

The star duo dominates in Dallas

Dallas was in complete control, headed toward its third win in three tries against Minnesota, when Derek Lively II left the game after a terrifying moment in which Towns inadvertently hit him with a knee to the head. Lively has been ruled out with a sprained neck, and the main concerns are of course centered on his health.

But the Mavericks, of course, had to keep playing even in Lively’s absence. The team led by 10 points when he left, which diminished throughout the second half without the presence and defensive superiority of the 20-year-old rookie.

Once again, Dallas will be tasked with finding another way to win, one born of circumstances the team hoped would never happen.

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As the team’s stifling defense increasingly leaks without its standard-bearer up the middle, it may take Dončić and Irving, the team’s co-star duo, to win their third game.

They did.

Doncic and Irving hit shot after shot, shots that seemed more difficult and splashed across the net anyway. Dončić won the jump ball against Edwards. Irving saved the botched possession with a baseline jumper.

Dončić found Daniel Gafford, Lively’s replacement, who briefly went to the bench in the fourth quarter while coach Jason Kidd tried a smaller lineup without a center. But even Gafford was redeemed.

Lively’s long-term health is the primary concern of every party involved in this situation. He will miss as many games or time as necessary to ensure he is ready to return. And for his teammates, it becomes much easier to navigate the 3-0 series.

Because his teammates, who he had been lifting up all season, had his back. — Tim Cato, Mavericks beat writer

Wolves are on the brink of extinction

The Timberwolves’ No. 1 defense is unstoppable. Towns can’t shoot. And now Minnesota is on the verge of being eliminated from the Western Conference Finals.

All season long, the Wolves hung their hats on stifling defense and were bolstered by an All-Star season from Towns. Both were conspicuously absent against Dallas.

Dončić and Irving combined for 66 points in game three. They consistently got what they wanted against a defense that ranked first all season. Minnesota was so desperate that it sat Rudy Gobert for most of the fourth quarter to get any offense to match the Mavs’ shots.

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Wolves have no answer for two dynamic and powerful shot-makers.

But Towns shot 27.8 percent from the field, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range, to continue a disastrous conference finals. He is 3-for-22 from 3 in the series.

Edwards went just 11-for-24, but scored 26 points, and his game-high goal in the third quarter helped put the Wolves back in the game. But no one can come with him to relieve some of the pressure. Mike Conley was the closest with 16 points on 4-for-7 shooting.

And now Minnesota’s renaissance season is on life support. Neither team was able to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win. -John Krawczynski, Timberwolves winningest writer

Wolves’ net rating in clutch games

One of the confusing things for the Wolves all season is that they had a good record (21-15) in clutch games, but their net rating (point differential per 100 possessions) was fourth-worst. It can happen, but it doesn’t help you know if they can survive the tough moments.

Dallas, on the other hand, had one of the best clutch records in the league (23-9) and the third-best net clutch rating in the NBA.

We’ve seen this show up for both teams in the Western Conference Finals. Three tight games. The Mavericks won all three. Minnesota tends to look for one moment to swing the game in their favor, and Dallas continues to execute.

In Game 1, Dončić performed as well as Game 4, and the defense showed up. In Game 2, Irving came out in the fourth, the defense forced key turnovers/stops, and Dončić delivered the dagger. Although it’s worth noting that Naz Reed missed a three-point look at the buzzer which changes the way we look at this.

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In Game 3, the Mavericks continued to execute in clutch moments, and the Wolves were unable to respond consistently. Irving and Doncic demolished them again, as did defensive breakdowns that led to big scores in the paint.

Minnesota has someone close to it, a 22-year-old who still knows where to make those moments. The Mavs have two of the best closers in the world and two of the most skilled offensive players we’ve ever seen.

Dallas is simply the best at this, and Minnesota has to learn. Unfortunately for them, school will soon stop for the summer. — Zach Harper, NBA staff writer

Required reading

(Photo: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)