Luka Doncic drills late triple to put Timberwolves down 2-0 in West Finals

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There’s a moment from last season that has thrilled Wolves fans for a year plus. Dallas had the ball with a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, and Jaden McDaniels and Anthony Edwards stonewalled Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic, forcing a turnover to secure Minnesota’s victory.

With a chance to repeat history Friday, Minnesota couldn’t get the same stop.

Down two in the closing seconds, Doncic forced a switch onto Rudy Gobert, stepped back to fire from behind the 3-point line and drilled it with three second to play.

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said the defensive game plan was to switch and then press up on anyone beyond the 3-point line. Gobert wasn’t able to apply quite enough pressure.

“He hit a big-time shot. I let my team down,” Gobert said. “They believed in me to get a stop, and they scored. He scored with a three. It’s something that he does really well. Definitely taking that responsibility. I’ve got to be better in that situation.”

Naz Reid then missed a good look at the horn on the other end, as Dallas rallied for a 109-108 victory at Target Center to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

“I thought it was good,” Anthony Edwards said of the shot.

But it wasn’t, and that was the difference. Dallas hit a shot when it mattered most, and Minnesota didn’t.

Trailing by seven to start the fourth quarter, Dallas opened the period on an 8-0 run to take the lead and force a Minnesota timeout. That started a back-and-forth affair in which the two teams traded blows offensively.

Finally, Dallas flinched in the final two minutes. On one possession, Derrick Jones Jr. and Kyrie Irving missed open triples. Then, Irving got to the free-throw line but missed twice. On the other end, Anthony Edwards attacked twice and got to the free-throw line both times, hitting all four attempts to stretch the lead to five with 90 seconds to play.

Ballgame, right? Not against these Mavericks.

Irving hit a triple, Dallas got multiple stops — including forcing a turnover by Edwards — and the Mavericks had the ball down two with 12.8 seconds to play. Then it was Doncic time. Doncic finished with 32 points, 13 assists and 10 boards. The Mavericks shot 60 percent from the floor in the second half.

Minnesota simply cannot end up in clutch-time situations against two of the league’s great late-game assassins.

“They’re two of the best at playmaking as well as going and getting their own bucket,” Mike Conley said. “In a series like this, you almost can’t be reliant on going into a close, one-possession game in fourth quarters, because those guys can get a bucket in multiple different ways. They’re probably two of the best at doing it, so we have to find ways to where if we have leads — six point leads — make it eight, make it 10. Try to stretch the game out a little bit to where it puts more pressure on them.”

At one point early in the fourth quarter, Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns were a combined 8 for 32 from the floor.

Minnesota decided to sit Towns in favor of Naz Reid down the stretch, while Edwards was largely moved off the ball. Both were necessary decisions. Reid missed his last attempt but did drill seven triples. Minnesota’s best offense was run by Mike Conley, who tallied 18 points.

Minnesota led by as many as 18 late in the second quarter. The Timberwolves were imposing their will on the defensive end and generating good offense. It looked like a patented Wolves’ playoff blowout.

But Dallas closed the half on an 8-2 run to get within 12 at the break and continued to make just enough plays to hang around and position itself for a run. The run was made, and now Minnesota heads to Dallas firmly on the ropes. Game 3 is Sunday in Dallas.

“I don’t really think anybody is frustrated — that’s the best part about it,” Reid said. “We know that it’s us. We just have to get into our ways and our brand of basketball, knowing that it’s us and we’re beating ourselves, for the most part.”

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