May 22, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) and forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) celebrate after defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves in game one of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota falls short at home in Game 1 of Western Conference Finals

The matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves lived up to its expectations in a close bout with the Mavericks coming away with Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

For Dallas, Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving both had 30-point nights but Irving set the tone for the game early on. Irving opened up with 24 of his 30 points in the first half. He was all over the court, keeping Anthony Edwards on his toes the entire half.  Edwards struggled offensively, being held to just 19 points on the night, going 6-of-16 though he did tally 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Despite the Timberwolves stars struggling with inconsistencies in the first half, its No. 1 ranked defense was able to escape the half with a 62-59 lead. Defensive specialist Jaden McDaniels played the most consistent, leading the Wolves with 20 of his 24 points in the first half. On defense, he also went on to hold Dončić to 7-for-19.

Beyond the Arc

The long ball felt futile from the start of Game 1.

It seemed the Mavericks gameplan was to sit back and let the Wolves struggle from beyond the arc. Struggles began early for Minnesota as they went on to finish the half 11-for-25. The Wolves must have liked the looks they were getting as they went on to attempt a season-high 49 3-pointers in the loss. The Wolves continued to struggle driving to the basket throughout the night, forcing Edwards to take a season-high 75% of his shots beyond the arc.

Despite being outscored by 27 points at the 3-point line, the Mavericks were able to come out just three points behind on the scoreboard at the half. The Wolves continued to blitz handlers like Dončić or Irving, usually giving the opportunity to find a shooter in one of the corners which we may see more of in Game 2.

Fifteen fourth-quarter points for Dončić

Heading into the fourth, the Mavs had continued to hang on despite offensive inconsistencies. That was until early in the fourth when Dončić quickly went on a 7-0 run by himself over three possessions. He then went on to hit a mid-range fadeaway to cut the Wolves lead down to four with 10:11 left.

After another defensive stop on Rudy Gobert, Dončić hit another step-back jumper to pull the Mavs to within one. He then went on to do what he does best and drilled a 3-pointer over McDaniels to put the Mavs up 91-89 with 9:08 left. The Mavs finished its 11-0 run putting them up 95-89 with 8:00 to play.

Back-and-forth action

The Wolves then went on to respond with a 13-1 run of their own, taking the 99-98 lead back with just 4:39 to play.

Edwards, exhausted from staying glued to Irving in the second half, pulled up for a crucial 3-ball to extend the Minnesota lead to four, making it 102-98 with 3:30 remaining.

The tide began to change once again as Dončić went on a 7-0 run of his own to put the Mavs up 93-89.

With a little over three minutes remaining in the fourth, the Mavs started to pull away. Dončić went on to cut the Wolves lead down to one after draining a three over Edwards. Immediately after, Luka gets a turnover and feeds it out to the corner to P.J. Washington Jr. He drilled the three with 1:55 left to take the lead, now making it 104-102. Dončić continued his dominant defensive play, helping keep the Wolves off the board while also extending the lead to four with only :49 remaining.

The game wrapped up with a foul on Mike Conley who went 1-2 at the line. The Wolves were unable to get the ball back from the second shot, giving the Mavericks the first game of the series as time expired.

Game 2 Western Conference Finals

By the end, both teams struggled beyond the arc. The biggest difference maker for the Mavericks was their seasoned veterans that were able to get them out of multiple situations with the game on the line.

Dallas will look to continue its dominance in the paint where the team outscored the Timberwolves 62-38 which allowed them to offset a lackluster 6-for-25 shooting performance from deep.

For the Timberwolves, they will surely look to cut back on their deep ball especially when you have stars like Edwards taking only four shots in the paint. By the end, Minnesota looked winded and may become more of an issue if the team intends to drive the ball in more. With having the best defense in the league, the Timberwolves would find themselves in a better position by sticking to their bread-and-butter.

Shutting the Mavericks down on offense will surely allow them to create more offensive opportunities the rest of the Western Conference Finals.

About Riley Sullivan

Riley Sullivan is a current senior at the University of Florida studying journalism with a specialization in sports and media. As a life-long Gators fan, Riley has pursued a career in sports reporting, one day hopefully working for his favorite NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings.

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