Doncic, Irving Lead Mavs to 3-0 in West Finals

Photo of Doncic and Irving leads Mavs to 3-0 in West Finals.

Doncic and Irving each scored 33 points, and Dallas used a decisive run in the final five minutes to secure a 116-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night, taking a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

After Anthony Edwards made a steal, Luka Doncic lunged for the ball, leading to a scramble and a jump ball that the Dallas star won. The Mavericks excelled on both ends of the court and are now just one victory away from their first NBA Finals appearance in 13 years.

The 14-3 finish marked the Mavericks’ fifth consecutive playoff victory, despite Dereck Lively II exiting with a sprained neck after taking an accidental knee to the head from Karl-Anthony Towns. No team in NBA playoff history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. Game 4 is set for Tuesday night in Dallas.

“We just say one more, we need one more,” Doncic said. “Nothing’s done. They have an amazing team, so nothing is done yet. We’ve got to get one more, and then if we get one more, we need the rest.”

P.J. Washington started the decisive stretch with a corner 3-pointer after a series of passes from Doncic to Irving, who then found Washington. The co-stars took over from there.

Doncic extended the lead to four points with a shot in the lane, Irving electrified the crowd with a falling-down jumper, and Doncic set up Daniel Gafford for an alley-oop dunk, making it 113-105 with 34 seconds left. Gafford then blocked Mike Conley’s layup attempt.

“They’re doubling me and Kai the whole game, which just makes us better,” Doncic said. “Everyone touches the ball, everyone plays. That’s an amazing win. We executed in the clutch.” Edwards scored 26 points for the Wolves but only had four after an eight-point run in the third quarter tied the game.

“I never think the sky is falling,” Edwards said. “I’m always positive, always happy. I’ve been through tough times, so the sky’s never falling for me.” Towns added 14 points but missed all eight of his 3-point attempts, including one when they were down by four with 1:25 left.

Minnesota, which led 104-102 on Kyle Anderson’s floater with five minutes to go, missed seven consecutive shots down the stretch. The Wolves also couldn’t hold onto leads of 18 points in the first half and five points in the final 90 seconds of Game 2.

“You’ve got to try to score alongside them,” said Wolves coach Chris Finch. “We’ve struggled to close games throughout the series. These tight end-of-game situations haven’t gone our way.” Doncic, whose last-second 3-pointer in Game 2 in Minnesota solidified Dallas’s control of the series, shot 10-for-20 from the field and 5-for-11 from deep.

Irving, a 2016 champion with Cleveland, scored 14 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, shooting 12-for-20 overall and 3-for-6 from three-point range. With 2011 NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki watching courtside, the Mavericks are closer to the NBA Finals than they’ve been since Nowitzki led them to their only championship.

Edwards, who admitted feeling fatigued in the series, shot 11-for-24 from the field but only took three shots in the fourth quarter, making two. The 22-year-old finished with nine rebounds and nine assists. “We can’t be anything but positive at this point,” Edwards said. “We can’t be negative. We need to focus on getting one win at a time.”

In the second quarter, Lively took a hard hit reminiscent of football contact, with Kansas City Chiefs stars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce watching courtside. Lively remained on the floor holding his head and appeared dazed as he was helped to the locker room.

Lively fell during a drive by Conley, with Towns’ knee hitting his head as Towns pursued an offensive rebound. Lively and Gafford have been crucial in helping Dallas take a 2-0 lead in the series. Lively has made all 12 of his field-goal attempts in the series, including three in Game 3.


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