Situation by situation, with predictions


NBA Western Conference Finals: Dallas Mavericks vs. Timberwolves

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

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

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

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

if necessary

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

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

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

Timberwolves' first two rounds

The third-seeded Wolves defeated sixth-seeded Phoenix in the first round and second-seeded Denver in seven games in the Western Conference Semifinal series.

After trailing by 20 points early in the third quarter on Sunday, they came back to win 98-90, the largest win in league Game 7 history and send home the defending NBA champions. The Wolves won the first two games in Denver, including 106–80 in Game 2. They then lost the next two games at the Target Center and Game 5 in Denver before winning by 45 points in Game 6.

key number

20 The years between the Wolves' first and only Western Conference Finals appearance. League MVP Kevin Garnett led them there. In 2024, young star Anthony Edwards and the Wolves' strong defense did it.

Do you know?

The teams have met only once in the playoffs and not since Dallas won the five-game series 3–0 in the 2002 first round. The Mavericks lost to Sacramento 4–1 in the second round.

Mavericks' first two rounds

They defeated the fourth-seeded Clippers in six games after going 2–2 in four games, winning Game 5 123–93 in Los Angeles and Game 6 114–101 at home. Kyrie Irving scored 30 and Luka Doncic scored 28 despite suffering a knee injury in the deciding game.

The fifth-seeded Mavericks also defeated top-seeded Oklahoma City in six games. The teams split the first two in LA and the next two in OKC, before the Mavericks again won the last two, 104–92 on the road and 117–116 at home.

key number

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

Do you know?

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

individual matchups

point guard

mike connelly, wolves

Anthony Edwards had only two words to explain his team's lopsided 115-70 win in Game 6 after a 112-97 loss in Game 5 in Denver: “Mike Conley.” Conley missed Game 5 because of a sore calf/Achilles tendon, then returned to play 31 minutes in Game 6 and 39 minutes in Game 7. Now the 17-year pro is back in the conference finals for the first time since his Memphis team lost to San Antonio in a four-game sweep in 2013. “It means a lot,” he said. “I just want these guys to understand, I don't think they understand what they did. To accomplish what they have and get to the West Conference finals is a great opportunity. Don't take it for granted. Celebrate the moment right now, but be ready to go. You have another team waiting for you.”

Luka Doncic, Mavericks

He does all this while averaging a near triple-double: Doncic led the NBA in scoring (33.9 points per game) and assists (9.8 per game) and was second in making three-pointers (284). He also averaged 9.2 rebounds a game. At 6-7, he plays the point and pushes the Mavericks at a certain pace. Meanwhile, backcourt partner Irving often plays the ball off-and-on. Doncic set a career high and franchise record by scoring 73 points against Atlanta in January. He set the franchise scoring record for a single season, 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 season. “He's kind of a unique player,” Mavericks forward PJ Washington Jr. said. “He's a great player and when he steps up, we play our best basketball. We're glad he's out there every night and takes it forward.”

Edge/ Mavericks

shooting guard

Anthony Edwards, Wolves

The man they call Ant was already thinking about his next game and next defensive assignment after Sunday's Game 7 win: Dallas' Kyrie Irving. Denver planned all series to stop him and forced him into bad shooting nights in Games 5 (for 5-15) and 7 (for 6-24), but do you think that cost him? Her smile and demeanor suggest obviously not. Teammate Conley said he only told Edwards one thing: Keep shooting. “I haven't said anything about anything,” Conley said. “I don't even know what he was shooting. I said, 'Dude, just keep going. I don't care if you miss the next 10. I just want you to be aggressive,' and he That's what it does.”

Kyrie Irving, Mavericks

Re-signed as a free agent in July, the scoring machine, especially prodigious in the fourth quarter, is an eight-time All-Star. He and backcourt partner Doncic were the first duo in team history to score 30 points each in their playoff debut as teammates against the Clippers last month. He played in 58 games, starting in all of them, and averaged 25.6 ppg. His average in the playoffs is 21.1. Irving and his team trailed OKC by 17 points early in the third quarter and still won their second-round series against the Thunder 4-2, winning 117-116 at home on Saturday. “Being down 17 points in a closeout game is not a situation 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 long.” He then hugged his family at courtside, hugged his Mavericks family in the locker room and said “It feels like a very long time coming back to this position, getting to the conference finals,” he said, holding back a tear or two.

Edge/ Mavericks, barely

small forward

Jaden McDaniels, Wolves

When he gets going offensively – as he did in Games 6 and 7 with 21 and 23 points, with three three-pointers in each – the Wolves are a different and more difficult team to defend. Defensively, he is a strong constant, guarding Devin Booker or Bradley Beal in one series, Jamal Murray in another. “He's a guy who doesn't get as much attention as he should, but he was alert in the first two rounds,” Conley said. “You'll find four or five of the best scorers in our game. And he's done it without saying a word. He doesn't need the ball. He just runs and gets it any way he can. Especially The last few games, I thought he's really taken it over not only defensively, but offensively. We need him to do that more.”

Derrick Jones Jr., Mavericks

The eighth-year veteran has been here to the Conference Finals before, but previously suffered an NBA Finals loss against the Lakers in the 2020 COVID-19 bubble with Miami. But that's not the case, as a starter getting major minutes defending James Harden in the Clippers series and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the OKC series. He still claims opposing defenses don't give his shooting due respect, perhaps because he is a defensive factor. “I love playing defense,” he said after the Mavs won a six-game series with OKC. “I like to go out there and make somebody's night a little harder.” Edwards will likely get a tough assignment in this series.

Edge/ wolves

power forward

Karl-Anthony Town, Wolves

He got what he deserved after Sunday's Game 7 clincher, which guaranteed his first trip to the Western Finals in his nine pro seasons. His coach praised him for being willing and able to sacrifice some of his game, guarding future Hall of Famers Kevin Durant in one series and Nikola Jokic in the next series. “I've been here nine years and I've talked about wanting to win here and do something special,” Towns said. “All the setbacks and disappointments that come with it have led to this moment. For me, being here nine years. I've been through everything 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 for a stretch power forward in his fifth season. He made a career playoff record seven three-pointers and scored 29 points in a 119–110 Game 2 win at OKC in the second round. When defenses fail on Doncic he butters his bread by shooting open threes Irving. He had made seven threes twice before in his career, but never made the playoff spotlight. “It means a lot,” he said. “It means everything.” He was also clutch in the fourth quarter of OKC's close-out game. He will be defending fellow former Kentucky Wildcats player Towns.

Edge/ Wolves

Center

Rudy Gobert, Wolves

Just when pundits thought Gobert would best serve his team off the bench in the fourth quarter Sunday, he performed like the Offensive, not the Defensive, Player of the Year. He scored nine points in that quarter, using some unusual methods: at the free-throw line (4-for-5) and on a 13-foot turnaround jumper. Conley, perhaps half-jokingly, called that turnaround basket “the luckiest thing I've ever seen” and Jaden McDaniels said, “I don't even know. God's on our side.”

Daniel Gafford, Mavericks

Another trade-deadline acquisition, the fifth-year 6-10 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 with a margin of 72.5. After the trade he shot 78% with the Mavs. He got to oop lanes from Irving and Doncic. “Jumping high and bringing the ball down,” Gafford said.

Edge/ wolves

bench

This proved to be the Wolves' strength throughout the Denver series and should again provide devastating defense with Sixth Man of the Year Naz Reed and Nickell Alexander-Walker producing three-point shooting. The Mavs' second-team All-Rookie pick, Derek Lively, is in good form and could give the Wolves trouble.

Edge/ wolves

to teach

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

Edge/ wolves

Prediction

The Mavs' backcourt is formidable, and the Wolves have faced both Irving and Doncic only once this season. Doncic has battled injuries and illness in these playoffs. Now that Durant and Jokic are no longer on the scouting report, it should be easier for Cities to defend, but he remains the X factor. As he goes, so go the wolves in many ways. Like everyone else, the Mavs will try to keep the ball out of Edwards' hands. Their frontcourt trade-deadline additions make them grittier and more physical.

wolves in seven


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