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Betting the NBA Western Conference Finals: Edwards to find it more difficult to score this round

When the NBA’s Western Conference playoffs tipped off last month, few conversations had the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks squaring off for the right to represent the conference in the Finals. The matchup just did not make sense. Sure, the Mavs were playing well entering the postseason and they have the star power with Luka and Kyrie, but they appeared fragile. Yes, the Timberwolves were the top defensive team in the league and have a rising superstar in Anthony Edwards, but they have not enjoyed any recent postseason success having quietly exited in the first round the last two seasons. Yet here we are.

Western Conference Finals, Game 1
Wednesday, May 22, 2024  |  Tipoff: 8:35P ET

Dallas Mavericks (+150) @ Minnesota Timberwolves (-180)

Spread: Timberwolves -4  |  O/U: 207

Here is why it makes sense.

The Wolves are that good on defense. Despite being the higher seed, Minnesota was the underdog to Kevin Durant and the Suns in the Opening Round. Chris Finch’s squad demolished KD, Beal, and Booker. The defending champs were next in line and Anthony Edwards and co. gave back a 2-0 lead in the series but took the last two games to claim the series. Their size and depth were too much for Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets to defeat four times. The Minnesota Timberwolves are led by a tremendous defense that is active and long. Mix in a magnetic young star in Edwards and a supporting cast of shot makers and you have the ingredients for success.

The Dallas Mavericks do appear fragile. Luka looks ready to collapse at least five times every game…but he doesn’t. His running mate Kyrie simply does not lose big playoff games. Sprinkle in possibly the best and most immediate unheralded midseason trade we’ve seen in years in PJ Washington along with a fast-developing big in Dereck Lively. They opened the playoffs and vanquished some personal playoff demons in knocking off Kawhi and the Clippers. Last round they took advantage of the inexperience of the Thunder.

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The result is a Western Conference Final that despite not featuring the stars or stories we anticipated, still features more than enough star power and storylines.

The boys of Bet the EDGE dove into the series on today’s episode.

Jay Croucher (@croucherJD) agrees the Wolves’ defense is elite, but he questions if their offense can produce against the Mavs.

“Minnesota's offense so far in the playoffs has been propped up by just how dominant Anthony Edwards has been in his specific first two matchups against Phoenix and Denver. What I mean by that is, I don’t think either team had someone who could stay in front of him on the perimeter and then both teams lacked athletic rim protection. I think that is the key thing with Edwards. You need guys with length on the perimeter…and then you need athleticism on the back line. I think Dallas with what they have with their length and with their size on the perimeter and with Gafford and Lively and one of them always at the rim…I think Minnesota’s offense is going to look more mortal (this series).”

Read more: Kurt Helin talks All-NBA Defensive Team

Drew Dinsick (@whale_capper) also expects a long series. His initial thoughts on the series included a look at NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert.

“Some of the role players for the Mavericks have been performing very, very effectively. Dereck Lively having a +26 in Game 6 (last round) was pretty wild. I don't know if his ability to get to the rim is going to be as effective against Rudy Gobert just because we know what his ability is…I think this is an easier assignment for Rudy defensively than what he had to do against Jokic. He might look amazing. I think the data would tell you that he was most important player for the Timberwolves in the series.”

This Western Conference Final may have surprised a few, but there are enough stars and storylines involved to make for an engaging next couple of weeks.

Enjoy the NBA Playoffs and a couple sweats along the way.

*odds courtesy of DraftKings