Mavericks visit Timberwolves, look to clinch No. 5 seed in West

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Mavericks visit Timberwolves, look to clinch No. 5 seed in West

The Dallas Mavericks will clinch the No. 5 seed in the NBA's Western Conference on Sunday with a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis.

Dallas (42-29) looks to close its regular season by winning seven of its last eight games. The Mavericks' current run, combined with Portland's one-point loss Thursday in Phoenix, put Dallas in control of its pursuit of fifth in the West.

Riding a three-game winning streak, the Mavericks moved a game ahead of Portland with a 114-110 win Friday over Toronto, holding off a late-game Raptors rally. Luka Doncic recorded his 11th triple-double of the season with 20 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, while Kristaps Porzingis added 21 points and 10 rebounds.

With a 31-26 first-quarter advantage on Friday, which grew to as many as 19 points in the third quarter, Dallas improved to 26-0 when it leads after the opening 12 minutes this season.

"When we play well together early, it tends to keep us playing well throughout the game," said Jalen Brunson, who scored 19 points and made a crucial assist on a Dorian Finney-Smith 3-pointer late. "When we start early, we're able to balance out toward the end of the game."

In its first meeting with Minnesota (22-49) on Feb. 8, Dallas won the first quarter 43-22 but had to hold off a late Timberwolves surge to win 127-122.

The second meeting on March 24 followed a much different trajectory, with Minnesota leading through one period 33-30, but Dallas pulling away for a 128-108 blowout win.

Anthony Edwards scored a combined 51 points in the two games against the Mavericks, with 22 in the first and 29 in the second. Edwards has an opportunity to make his closing statement for NBA Rookie of the Year on Sunday.

Edwards scored 23 points in Minnesota's 124-108 loss to Boston on Saturday, marking the seventh game in his past eight that he has hit for at least 22 points.

The Timberwolves' past 20 games have been some of the most crucial to the 2021-22 season, with the three-man corps of Edwards, D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns playing together.

Towns scored 24 points in Saturday's loss, the 13th consecutive game in which he registered at least 20, and Russell finished with 11 points and six assists.

"That's the most important thing that we're gaining right now from these minutes," said Minnesota coach Chris Finch in his postgame press conference. "Just to figure out what the lineup needs, what that lineup does well, what we need to protect that lineup from."

Finch said following Saturday's loss that Minnesota "is not a tanking team," and has aimed to end this season strong. Before dropping their past two against Denver and Boston, the Timberwolves had won seven of 11 in their best sustained stretch of the campaign.

Minnesota dealt with a rash of injuries throughout the campaign, with Towns missing 22 games and Russell out for 30. Malik Beasley ends the regular season sidelined with a hamstring injury, and Jarrett Culver will conclude 2020-21 having played in just 34 games.

Dallas faced its own, similar issues with Porzingis out for 29 games, Finney-Smith out for 12 and Maxi Kleber sidelined 21 games. Kleber and J.J. Redick are the only Mavericks still out due to Achilles' and heel injuries, respectively. Redick has played in just 13 games with Dallas since being acquired from New Orleans in March.

--Field Level Media