Through all the odds, the Dallas Mavericks took a 2-0 lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference Finals thanks to a last second 3-pointer by superstar Luka Doncic in the thrilling 109-108 victory late Friday night.

It was another tightly contested game with the teams staying within a possession or two of each other most of the game. And with the game hanging in the balance, it came down to two plays by Doncic and Minnesota’s rising star Anthony Edwards.

The Timberwolves were nursing a 108-106 lead with less than 20 seconds remaining when Edwards tried to attack the basket, but was cut off by Mavs rookie big man Dereck Lively. Edwards had a number of options around him, but panicked and threw an errant pass to Naz Reid. The ball sailed out of bounds.

Doncic, meanwhile was the epitome of calm on Dallas’ final possession.

The Mavs ran a screen-and-roll and got reigning defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert switched onto Doncic, which may sound good in theory, but Doncic quickly showed why it was an unwise strategy. Doncic put Gobert on skates with crossover after crossover until he eventually stepped back and knocked down the game-winning 3 with exactly 3 seconds remaining.

Doncic finished with 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in another virtuoso performance that has the Mavericks a step closer to a NBA Finals appearance.


Doncic’s excellence is a big reason why the Mavericks have taken the commanding lead. In Game 1, Doncic was just as productive with 15 of his 33 points in the first quarter. And after Friday’s performance, he has staked his claim as to who is the most consistent and reliable superstar between Doncic and Edwards.

Edwards had another tough game. He he went 5 of 17 while scoring 21 points and having a plus-minus of minus-9 while he was on the floor. Having the best player in a series can often be the difference between elimination and advancing. As enjoyable as it has been to see Edwards’ ascension this playoffs, he hasn’t yet gotten to the same tier as Doncic, and there’s no shame in that.

While Edwards has been struggling with double teams and the Mavericks’ trapping him, Doncic has been cool under pressure. When the Timberwolves sent the traps at Doncic in Game 2, if he couldn’t create the look he wanted, he was always able to find an open teammate in the corner or a wide open Lively streaking down the lane for a dunk.

What Doncic has done the first two games of this series has been a masterclass. This is the same Minnesota defense that flustered a roster that had Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal on the same team.

It’s the same defense that ended up being the catalyst in the Timberwolves overcoming a 3-2 deficit to the defending champion Denver Nuggets. The two anchors of the Minnesota defense, Jaden McDaniels and Gobert, have been so far mostly reduced to functioning as minor nuisances to Doncic. That has to be a most discouraging feeling for the Timberwolves.

Right now there doesn’t appear to be a clear answer to slowing Doncic down. The Thunder was able to have some success doing it last series due to the physicality of Lu Dort, who is built like a NFL linebacker, but McDaniels is thin and relies more on his length than his strength.


That won’t do against Doncic, who has been able to create subtle separation just about any time he wants. Doncic’s continued run of being a historic playoff performer is central to the Mavericks’ success this postseason, but there’s a few more reasons why Dallas should feel encouraged.

One of them is Lively, who has been more reliable than the Wolves’ Gobert and Karl Anthony Towns. Gobert has been hunted in the pick-and-roll, while Towns didn’t even finish the fourth quarter due to his defensive shortcomings and perhaps the fact that he shot 4 of 16 from the field.

Meanwhile, Lively was a perfect 6 of 6 from the field and made crucial play after crucial play in the fourth quarter. Dallas also got another strong game from veteran big man Daniel Gafford, who chipped in 16 points and five blocks.

The Timberwolves likely thought they had the better defense, the better frontcourt and even the better superstar, but so far it’s been Dallas that’s been the superior side.

Still, the job is not finished as Minnesota experienced last series when the Nuggets fell behind 2-0, but then won three straight. Can the Timberwolves do the same to the Mavericks?

With the way Doncic is playing, consider it unlikely.

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