Takeaways from Mavericks vs. Timberwolves Game 2: Dallas D giving Anthony Edwards problems

2024 NBA Playoffs - Dallas Mavericks v Minnesota Timberwolves
2024 NBA Playoffs - Dallas Mavericks v Minnesota Timberwolves

The Western Conference Finals has been everything a basketball fan could want. Well, unless you're a Minnesota Timberwolves basketball fan.

For the second game in a row, the Timberwolves led the game with 2:10 remaining in the fourth, and for the second game in a row, they lost. This time, it was Luka Doncic with the unfair step-back 3-pointer to give Dallas the win and a 2-0 series lead. Gobert defended it well — he took away Doncic's preferred step back to the left — but it doesn't matter against one of the best clutch players in the game.

Let's look at some takeaways from Game 2

Dallas’ Defense making things hard for Ant, KAT

We entered this series rightfully praising Minnesota's defense after it had a brilliant series slowing the defending champion Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic. In that, we may have undersold Dallas' defense, which was the best in the NBA over the final 22 games of the season.

Through two games, Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns are 21-of-69 shooting (30.4%) — Dallas has thrown Minnesota's best offensive players off their game.

In Game 2, Edwards shot 5-of-17 and in the fourth quarter had as many turnovers (two) as field goal attempts. He has looked gassed at the end of games. Towns was on the bench much of the fourth quarter because he was cold and Naz Reid was hot.

In previous series (and all season long), Minnesota had success with Anthony Edwards being on the ball as the primary offensive creator, Dallas has taken that away (the Timberwolves have had better success targeting Dallas stars with off-ball screens and plays to get guys open).

"They're just showing me crowds, man, sitting in the gaps," Edwards said. "But I'm turning down a lot of shots, like my midranges and stuff. I'm turning a lot of those down. But we're getting open looks, so I ain't trippin'.”

The simple fact of this series is that Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving have outplayed Edwards and Towns, which is why Dallas is up 2-0. This could tie into our next point.

Mavericks’ experience in big game shows

For two games in a row, the Timberwolves had the lead in the final couple of minutes of the half and couldn't close it out.

In the clutch in this series — the final five minutes of the game (within five points) — Dallas has a +15.8 net rating (meaning Minnesota is a corresponding -15.8). The Timberwolves have a 100 offensive rating in those minutes.

Make it the last three minutes when the game is within three points and Dallas' net rating is +63.6 and the Timberwolves have a 45.5 offensive rating.

For Edwards and this collection of Timberwolves, this is all new — this team, this core, has not been in these moments before.

Luka Doncic played in the Western Conference Finals with Dallas a couple of years ago. Kyrie Irving wasn't there, but he has a ring — he hit maybe the most clutch shot in NBA Finals history — and a lot of experience on this stage.

That experience, that calmness and ability to execute are showing.

It's a bit surprising since the Timberwolves were so clutch last series — they outplayed the defending champions in the fourth quarter of Game 7 on the road. It doesn't get more clutch than that.

Minnesota's experience in the Western Conference Finals has been different. If that doesn't change heading back to Dallas for Game 3 Sunday, this series will be much shorter than predicted.