Mavericks Take 3-0 Series Lead Over Timberwolves with Help from Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic

The Dallas Mavericks are on the verge of achieving their first NBA Finals appearance since 2011, as they are only one victory away. In a remarkable display of teamwork, Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic led the charge, guiding the Mavericks to a convincing 116-107 victory over the Timberwolves in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

Irving had an exceptional performance, scoring 33 points on 12-of-20 shooting. He also contributed three rebounds and four assists. In addition, Irving sealed the game with a clutch step-back jumpshot in the final minute. On the other hand, Doncic also had an impressive showing, matching Irving’s 33 points and sinking five 3-pointers. Along with his scoring, Doncic recorded seven rebounds, five assists, and five steals.

The Mavericks are on the cusp of securing a spot in the NBA Finals after their recent victory. With Game 4 scheduled for Tuesday in Dallas, the team has won five consecutive games and is currently riding a wave of momentum.

The Timberwolves couldn’t keep up with Dallas in the later part of the game. Anthony Edwards had a spectacular dunk that will be remembered for a long time, but his 26 points weren’t sufficient. Karl-Anthony Towns had a particularly rough night, shooting only 5-of-18 from the field and missing all eight of his 3-point attempts, including a crucial one towards the end of the game that could have turned things around for Minnesota. Overall, the Wolves struggled from beyond the arc, making just 9-of-30 3-pointers, while the Mavericks had a much better shooting performance, going 14-for-28.

Let’s dive into the key highlights from Game 3:

An all-time backcourt

Dallas’s success in this series can be attributed to the consistent ability of two players to create shots: Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. In contrast, Minnesota lacks such players. While both teams boast strong defenses, competent role players, and effective coaching staffs, it is the individual brilliance of Doncic and Irving that has proven to be the decisive factor in this series. Their exceptional performances have undoubtedly shaped the outcome of each game.

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Game 1 could have easily been dominated by Minnesota, as they held a lead of up to nine points in the first half. However, Irving’s impressive 24-point performance in the first half kept the game close enough for Doncic to shine in the fourth quarter. During this crucial period, Minnesota opted for a drop-coverage defensive strategy against Doncic, but he skillfully exploited their vulnerabilities in the mid-range. In response, Minnesota adjusted their approach in Game 2, attempting to blitz him. Unfazed, Doncic displayed his exceptional passing skills, leaving the Timberwolves scrambling for a solution. Eventually, they resorted to switching defenders, but this decision backfired when Doncic nailed a game-winning step-back shot over Rudy Gobert. In Game 3, Minnesota tried to neutralize Irving with Mike Conley, but Irving proved too much for him, constantly drawing fouls and keeping him in trouble throughout the game. In the final five minutes of a closely contested match, Doncic delivered eight of the final 12 points for the Mavericks, sealing the victory with clutch shots.

The NBA’s top-ranked defense this season belonged to the Timberwolves. Their defensive prowess was on full display as they eliminated the defending champion Nuggets. However, when facing Doncic and Irving, the Timberwolves’ defense seemed powerless. These two players have encountered every defensive strategy and adjustment thrown at them, yet they remain unstoppable. In Game 3, Doncic and Irving made history by becoming the first backcourt duo to each score at least 30 points in three separate playoff games. When one of them is struggling, the other steps up to carry the load. But when both are firing on all cylinders, opposing teams are left helpless. Their exceptional performances have cemented their status among the greatest backcourts in NBA history. If they manage to win five more games and secure the championship title, they could very well claim the top spot on that esteemed list.

Minnesota’s stars are failing

Karl-Anthony Towns seemed to have a favorable matchup on paper. His primary defender, P.J. Washington, was 20 pounds lighter and five inches shorter than him. It appeared that Towns would have an advantage scoring near the rim. However, in the first three games, he has struggled with his shooting. Towns has only made 15 of his 54 field goal attempts and has been even worse from beyond the arc, going 3-of-22. Additionally, he has not been able to make a difference on the defensive end. Surprisingly, his backup, Naz Reid, has outperformed him in multiple aspects of the game.

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Anthony Edwards may have outperformed Towns in the series, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has been performing exceptionally well. His shooting percentage from the floor in this series is disappointing, standing at 22-of-57. In Game 3, he had a relatively quiet performance, with the exception of a 10-point burst in the third quarter. Prior to the game, Edwards made a promise to be “super aggressive” in this crucial match. Although he attempted 24 shots, it could be argued that he still wasn’t aggressive enough. If anything, he played it safe and was somewhat conservative in his approach.

He often found himself facing defenders like Washington or Doncic, whom he should have had an advantage over in one-on-one situations. Instead of taking them on directly, he opted for screens, which allowed Dallas to double-team him. The idea behind this strategy was to create 4-on-3 situations for his teammates. While this approach isn’t necessarily bad basketball, it didn’t live up to the level of aggression he had promised or that Minnesota needed. Considering how well the Mavericks are currently defending, these 4-on-3 opportunities aren’t worth sacrificing good individual chances.

22-year-old Edwards is currently in his fourth year and experiencing his first real playoff run. While it’s understandable that he may not possess the same level of game-management mastery as players like Doncic and Irving, this deficiency is proving detrimental to the Timberwolves. Although winning the role player battle in this series, the team is unable to capitalize on it due to the underperformance of their star player, Towns. Unfortunately, Towns is currently playing the worst basketball of his career, which hampers their chances of success.

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Dereck Lively’s injury matters more than you think

The Mavericks are currently leading the series 3-0 and are expected to secure a victory soon. If they do, they will have a significant break of up to nine days to recuperate and address any health concerns. It is highly probable that they will enter the Finals in a relatively healthy state. However, the outcome of Game 3 was almost altered due to the absence of Dereck Lively II.

Minnesota’s attempt to blitz Doncic backfired in Game 2 as Lively excelled in the 4-on-3 short-roll scenarios it created. Unfortunately, Daniel Gafford doesn’t possess the necessary passing or dribbling skills to consistently generate quality shots when Doncic is double-teamed. On the other hand, Lively thrives in these situations. As the game progressed, the Mavericks became adept at deciphering Minnesota’s blitzes, resulting in Lively finishing with thunderous dunks or finding open teammates for easy shots.

The hot streak that Edwards experienced in the third quarter was not just a coincidence. It was directly related to Lively leaving the game. Once Lively was off the court, the rim seemed to open up for Minnesota. In Game 3, the Timberwolves outscored the Mavericks by 10 points in the paint, and this was largely due to Lively’s absence. With Lively out, Edwards was able to consistently drive into the paint, and even when he didn’t score himself, his ability to collapse the defense created opportunities for his teammates to capitalize on.

Dealing with neck injuries can be challenging. Dallas prefers a strain over a concussion, as the latter can have long-lasting effects. While the Mavericks may not require Lively’s presence for the Minnesota game, they will undoubtedly need him if they face the Celtics in a future series. Ensuring his well-being is paramount for Dallas in the lead-up to the Finals.

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