NBA: Mavericks home with 2-0 lead as Wolves try to avoid panic

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The Minnesota Timberwolves hope to get more from Anthony Edwards when they hit the road in search of a much-needed win against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Sunday night.

The fifth-seeded Mavericks went to Minneapolis and stole Games 1 and 2 from the third seed by a total of four points, not only snatching the home-court advantage but throwing the door wide open to a potential sweep in the best-of-seven series.

Luka Doncic has outscored Edwards 65-40 in the first two games in a battle of All-NBA performers and has the signature moment of the matchup so far with a game-winning 3-pointer in Game 2.

The series is quite a turnaround from when Edwards made himself the face of a suddenly recognizable Minnesota franchise by dominating his matchup with 2023 postseason standout Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets in the recently completed Western Conference second round.

Edwards, who shot 50 percent from the field against the Nuggets, has gone just 11-for-33 (33.3 percent) from the floor against the Mavericks. He walked away from Friday’s 109-108 loss undeterred.

“We’ve been here before,” Edwards said. “I don’t think anyone in the locker room is panicking.”

At the same time, he gave some insight into what is expected to be an altered game plan at Dallas.

“I am turning down a lot of shots,” Edwards said. “I’m just making the right play. Sometimes, the right play may be to just shoot it.”

Timberwolves All-Star sidekick Karl-Anthony Towns has shared in the struggles. Towns shot 53.1 percent in Minnesota’s opening-round sweep of the Phoenix Suns, then 51.0 percent in the Denver series. But he has started the conference finals 10-for-36 (27.8 percent).

As Edwards noted, the Timberwolves have been here before. They lost three straight against the Nuggets, only to come up big in two potential season-ending scenarios, including Game 7 at Denver.

Minnesota has won five of six on the road in the postseason, with Edwards averaging 30.0 points on 48.9-percent shooting in those games, while Towns has gone for 23.2 points on 57.4-percent shooting.

Amid the accolades over his game-winning 3-pointer in the immediate aftermath of Game 2 came words of caution from the Mavericks hero himself.

“First to four. Nothing’s won,” Doncic said. “You’ve just got to think about next game.”

The Mavericks failed to take advantage of early road success in their first two series. They earned a split on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers in Round 1, only to give the home-court advantage back after splitting Games 3 and 4 in Dallas.

Their second-round matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder followed the same pattern.

The latter series saw the Mavericks win the final two games, with their winning streak now doubled. The Timberwolves, meanwhile, have lost four of seven since their two series-opening wins at Denver.

If the Timberwolves are going to turn things around in Dallas, chances are they will have to improve on their fourth-quarter play. They have been outscored 56-44 in the fourth so far, throwing away leads they built in the first three periods.

The Mavericks outshot the hosts 50.0 percent to 42.8 percent in those fourth quarters, 53.3 percent to 38.9 percent on 3-pointers. They also outrebounded their taller rivals 22-14 in the final periods while committing fewer turnovers (9-6) over the final 12 minutes of each game.

Edwards has just 12 fourth-quarter points, with as many turnovers (three) as assists (three), while playing 19 of those 24 minutes.

–Field Level Media

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