NBA Playoffs: Mavericks strike first in Minnesota in West Finals

With 63 points between Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, Dallas won 108-105 on the Timberwolves' court in the opening game of the NBA Western Conference Finals.

(AFP / VOZ MEDIA) With 63 points between Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-105 on Wednesday in the opening game of the NBA Western Conference Finals.

Doncic, who scored 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, decided an even matchup in Minneapolis, in which neither team had double-digit leads.

"We had to work really hard to get this one. ... But that’s only one, we got three more to go," stressed the Slovenian point guard after the game.

The connection between Doncic and Irving, one of the best offensive duos in the NBA, ended up dismantling the best defense in the league.

The experienced Irving dominated the first half with 24 points, finishing the game with 30, to set the tone for the Mavericks who are chasing their first NBA Finals since 2011.

After the game, Irving acknowledged that recent statements by Anthony Edwards, Minnesota's young star, prompted him to start the game with greater aggression.

"I use it as motivation. When I was sitting at home and I saw it, [I thought], 'This is a nod of respect.'" he explained. "But that’s a no-fear mentality, and that’s why we love Ant[hony Edwards]."

The Timberwolves, who are competing in their first Western Conference Finals in two decades, suffered from a mediocre night from both Edwards and their other biggest scorer, Dominican-American center Karl-Anthony Towns.

Edwards, the rising star of these playoffs at 22 years old, had 19 points (6-16 field goals), and Towns had 16 (6-20), while forward Jaden McDaniels continued his strong play with 24 and 6 3-pointers.

The Timberwolves, third seed in the conference, lost home-court advantage against the Mavericks, who finished the regular season in fifth, but in these playoffs they have shown that they feel much more comfortable away from home, as they demonstrated on Sunday by eliminating the defending champion Denver Nuggets at home.

Minnesota, which will host Game 2 on Friday, has won five of six games played so far away from the Target Center.

The winner of this series will advance to the NBA Finals to face the Indiana Pacers or the Boston Celtics, the latter on Tuesday earned their first victory in the East Finals.

Changing roles

Kyrie Irving was the star of the first half in Minneapolis. The controversial point guard, who in these playoffs averaged just 6 points in the first two quarters, this time reached 24 on a near-perfect 11-14 shooting.

A key figure in LeBron James' Cavaliers title run in 2016, Irving took command of the Mavericks from the beginning as the most experienced player at this point in the postseason.

"He got us going. Without him, we would probably be down 20 in halftime," Doncic acknowledged. "I had to help him in the second half a little bit. So we switched roles this time."

Led by their star pairing, Dallas' attack flowed in Minneapolis, but the Timberwolves were not far behind. Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota's secret weapon in these playoffs, went to the locker room with 19 points, converting 5 of his 6 3-pointers.

The effectiveness that the forward has shown lately compensated for the weak start of Edwards and Towns.

The game went to halftime with only three points separating the Timberwolves (62-59) and continued to be close, even after a 13-0 run in the final quarter by Dallas, with 7 straight points from Doncic.

Edwards had a run of his own for the first time in the game to stop the bleeding and the final stretch led to an exciting exchange of baskets in which the talent of the Mavericks' stars prevailed.

NBA Dream Team

Before the game between the Timberwolves and the Mavericks, the NBA announced the ideal team of the season. In addition to Doncic, the best basketball league in the world included in the first team Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder), Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks).


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