Mavericks draw first blood with Game 1 victory over Timberwolves at Target Center

In a reverse procedure than usual, Kyrie Irving started the Dallas Mavericks and Luka Doncic played the role of closer. The Timberwolves at times struggled to contain both in a 108-105 loss in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

Doncic hit a crucial shot to put the Mavericks up by four with 49 seconds left in the fourth quarter. While Naz Reid then made a jumper to cut the score to two, Irving made a pair of free throws after the intentional foul that pushed him to a four-point margin with seven seconds left.

Meanwhile, the Timberwolves struggled to find an offensive rhythm late.

“Terrible offense, bad shooting, turnovers, lack of composure,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said.

Doncic, who had 33 points, eight assists and six rebounds, took control during the fourth quarter and made three straight baskets during a 13-0 Mavs run that ultimately resulted in an eight-point lead.

Doncic started it all off with a pair of step-back jumpers and a 3-pointer during his own 7-0 run that gave the Mavericks a 91-89 lead, their first lead of the fourth quarter after trailing by five.

The Timberwolves, however, finally responded with their own 10-1 run in which they retook the lead with just under five minutes remaining. Karl-Anthony Towns was a driving force, hitting a jumper, finding Rudy Gobert for a dunk and hitting a 3-pointer that gave the Wolves a 99-98 lead.

Anthony Edwards pushed that to a four-point lead when he hit a 3-pointer for the first bucket after a Mavericks timeout. But Doncic responded with a 3-pointer at the other end, and PJ Washington then hit another to give Dallas a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

All of that came despite the Timberwolves leading for the entire first half and most of the first quarter. Jaden McDaniels came out hot from long range, hitting a trio of 3-pointers during the first quarter on his way to 19 first-half points. It is the third consecutive game in which McDaniels has scored 20 or more points, finishing his night with a team-high 24 points.

“I don’t think we played our best basketball (Wednesday),” Edwards said. “One through 15. I think (McDaniels) was the only one who came ready to play (Wednesday). I think everyone else let him down.”

Kyle Anderson, who scored 11 points, also got the Wolves off the bench, especially early on, when he scored seven points in four minutes of action during the first quarter. He even hit a three-pointer during that stretch. And the Timberwolves led 33-27 after one quarter of action.

But despite holding a lead throughout the first half, the Timberwolves had trouble containing Kyrie Irving, who beat the Wolves all over the court, finishing at the rim and hitting a variety of mid-range shots. Irving scored 24 of his 30 points in the first half.

Perhaps the biggest five came late in the second quarter, when he scored five straight points to reduce an eight-point margin to three. Irving first got to the rim for a layup and then found his way back into the paint after an Edwards turnover. He made a tough shot in the paint and fouled McDaniels before completing a three-point play to make the score 62-59.

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