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Wolves-Mavericks matchups: Which team holds the most advantages?

NBA Western Conference finals: Dallas Mavericks vs. Timberwolves

Game 1: Wednesday, May 22 at Target Center, 7:30 p.m.

Game 2: Friday, May 24 at Target Center, 7:30 p.m.

Game 3: Sunday, May 26 at Dallas, 7 p.m.

Game 4: Tuesday, May 28 at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.

If necessary

Game 5: Thursday, May 30 at Target Center, 7:30 p.m.

Game 6: Saturday, June 1 at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.

Game 7: Monday, June 3 at Target Center, 7:30 p.m.

Timberwolves' first two rounds

The third-seeded Wolves swept sixth seed Phoenix in the first round and beat second seed Denver in seven games of their Western Conference semifinal series.

Their comeback from 20 points down early in Sunday's third quarter to claim a 98-90 victory is the biggest in league Game 7 history and sent the defending NBA champs home. The Wolves won the first two games at Denver, including 106-80 in Game 2. Then they lost the next two at Target Center and Game 5 at Denver before winning by 45 points in Game 6.

Key number

20 Years between the Wolves' first — and only — Western Conference finals appearance. League MVP Kevin Garnett led them there. In 2024, young star Anthony Edwards and the Wolves' smothering defense did.

Did you know?

The teams have met only once in the playoffs and not since Dallas swept the five-game series 3-0 in the 2002 first round. The Mavericks lost to Sacramento 4-1 in the second round.

Mavericks' first two rounds

They beat the fourth-seeded Clippers in six games after being tied 2-2 through four games, winning Games 5 123-93 in Los Angeles and Game 6 114-101 at home. Kyrie Irving scored 30 and Luka Doncic scored 28 on a hurting knee in the clinching game.

The fifth-seeded Mavericks took out top-seeded Oklahoma City in six games, too. The teams split the first two in L.A. and the next two in OKC before the Mavericks again won the final two, 104-92 on the road and 117-116 at home.

Key number

3 Statistical categories in which Doncic leads the Mavs during this postseason: scoring (27.2), rebounds (9.7) and assists (9.1). He also leads in turnovers (4.1).

Did you know?

The Wolves won three of four regular-season meetings between the teams, but not since January. But Doncic and Irving both played in only one of those, a 115-108 Mavs win on Jan. 7. Without one or the other, or both, the Wolves won 119-101 and 118-100 in December and 121-87 in January.

Individual matchups

POINT GUARD

Mike Conley, Wolves

Anthony Edwards had only two words to explain his team's lopsided 115-70 victory in Game 6 that followed a 112-97 Game 5 loss in Denver: "Mike Conley." Conley missed that Game 5 because of calf/Achilles tendon soreness, then returned to play 31 minutes in Game 6 and 39 minutes in Game 7. Now the 17-year pro is headed back to the conference finals for the first time since his Memphis team lost to San Antonio in a four-game sweep in 2013. "It means a lot," he said. "I just want these guys to understand, I don't think they understand what they just did. Accomplishing what they have and getting to the West Conference finals is a great opportunity. Don't take it for granted. Celebrate the moment for now, but be ready to go. You have another team waiting for you."

Luka Doncic, Mavericks

He does it all, averaging nearly a triple-double: Doncic led the NBA in scoring (33.9 points per game) and was second in assists (9.8 per game) and three-pointers made (284). He also averaged 9.2 rebounds a game. At 6-7, he plays the point and pushes the Mavericks with a certain pace. Meanwhile, backcourt mate Irving plays off the ball more often than not. Doncic set a career high and franchise record by scoring 73 points against Atlanta in January. He set the franchise scoring record for a single season, surpassing former No. 1 overall pick Mark Aguirre. He's also the first player in NBA history to average 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in a season. Conley calls Doncic the Nikola Jokic of this series that might be defined by pick-and-roll plays. "He's one of a kind," Mavericks forward P.J. Washington Jr. said. "He's a great player and when he gets rolling, we play our best basketball. We're just glad he's there every night, pushing it."

Edge/ Mavericks

SHOOTING GUARD

Anthony Edwards, Wolves

The man they call Ant already was thinking after Sunday's Game 7 victory about his next game and next defensive assignment: Dallas' Kyrie Irving. Denver game-planned all series to stop him and forced him into bad shooting nights in Games 5 (5-for-15) and 7 (6-for-24), but do you think that got him down? Apparently not, judging from his smile and demeanor. Teammate Conley said he has told Edwards just one thing: Keep shooting. "I haven't said nothing about anything," Conley said. "I don't even know what he was shooting. I was like, 'Man, just keep going. I don't care if you miss the next 10. I just want you to be aggressive,' and that's what he does. That's what he is."

Kyrie Irving, Mavericks

Re-signed as a free agent in July, the scoring machine, particularly uncanny in fourth quarters, is an eight-time All-Star. He and backcourt mate Doncic were the first pair in team history to score 30 points each in their playoff debut as teammates against the Clippers last month. He played in 58 games, starting them all and averaging 25.6 ppg. He's averaging 21.1 in the playoffs. Irving and his team trailed OKC by 17 points early in the third quarter and still clinched their second-round series 4-2 against the Thunder, winning 117-116 at home Saturday. "Being down 17 in a closeout game isn't a position you want to be in," Irving said. "But that's where we found ourselves, and we had to respond, the way we've been responding all season. He hugged his own family courtside afterward, hugged his Mavericks family in the locker room and said he held back a tear or two. "It feels a long time coming being back in this position, the conference finals," he said.

Edge/ Mavericks, barely

SMALL FORWARD

Jaden McDaniels, Wolves

When he steps forth offensively — like he did with 21 and 23 points in Games 6 and 7, with three three-pointers in each — the Wolves are a different and more difficult team to defend. Defensively, he's rock-solid constant, guarding Devin Booker or Bradley Beal in one series, Jamal Murray in another. "He has been the guy who doesn't get the attention like he should, but he has had the guard in the first two rounds," Conley said. "Four or five of the best scorers you'll meet in our game. And he has done it without saying a word. He doesn't need the ball. He just hustles and gets it however he can. The last couple games especially, I thought he really took it upon himself to be aggressive offensively, not on just the defensive end. We need him to do that more."

Derrick Jones Jr., Mavericks

The eighth-year veteran has been here in conference finals before, but with Miami in the East on the way to an NBA Finals loss against the Lakers in the 2020 COVID-19 bubble. But not like this, as a starter getting major minutes defending James Harden in the Clippers series and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the OKC series. He still claims opposing defenses don't give his shooting its proper respect, maybe because he's such a defensive factor. "I love playing defense," he said after the Mavs clinched the six-game series with OKC. "I love going out there making somebody's night a little tougher." He'll get a tough assignment in this series, likely Edwards.

Edge/ Wolves

POWER FORWARD

Karl-Anthony Towns, Wolves

He took what he deserved after Sunday's Game 7 clincher, which guaranteed his first trip to the Western finals in his nine pro seasons. His coach praised him for sacrificing some of his game, for being willing and able to guard future Hall of Famers Kevin Durant at length one series and Nikola Jokic the next. "I've been here nine years and talked about wanting to win and do something special here," Towns said. "All of the failures and disappointment that comes with it led to this moment. For me, being here nine years. I've seen everything and seen it all. To be here with these guys and this team, it's just super satisfying."

P.J. Washington Jr., Mavericks

The Mavericks sent two players and a first-round pick to Charlotte at February's trade deadline for the stretch power forward now in his fifth season. He made a career playoff record seven three-pointers and scored 29 points in a 119-110 Game 2 win at OKC in the second round. He butters his bread shooting open threes when defenses collapse on Doncic and Irving. He had made seven threes twice before his career, but never in the playoff spotlight. "It means a lot," he said. "It means everything." He also was clutch in the fourth quarter of the OKC closeout game. He'll defend Towns, a fellow former Kentucky Wildcats player.

EDGE/ Wolves

CENTER

Rudy Gobert, Wolves

Just when the pundits thought Gobert would serve his team best on the bench in Sunday's fourth quarter, he made like the Offensive Player of the Year, not the defensive one. He scored nine points in that quarter, using some unusual methods: at the free-throw line (4-for-5) and on a 13-foot turnaround jumper. Conley, maybe only half-jokingly, called that turnaround basket "the luckiest thing I've ever seen," and Jaden McDaniels said, "I don't even know. God on our side."

Daniel Gafford, Mavericks

Another trade-deadline acquisition, the fifth-year 6-10 center from Arkansas was part of a three-way deal with Washington and OKC. He scored 19 points in 17 minutes off the bench in his Mavs debut in February. He led the NBA in field-goal percentage by quite a margin at 72.5. He shot 78% with the Mavs after the trade. He was obtained to oop the alleys from Irving and Doncic. "Jumping high and bringing the ball down," Gafford said.

Edge/ Wolves

BENCH

It proved to be the Wolves' strength throughout the Denver series and should be again with Sixth Man of the Year Naz Reid and Nickeil Alexander-Walker providing devastating defense to go with three-point shooting. Mavs second-team All-Rookie pick Dereck Lively is, well, lively and could give the Wolves trouble.

Edge/ Wolves

COACHING

Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd is in his third season in Dallas, where he played. He coached the Mavs this season to at least 50 wins for the second time in those three years. Before that he coached four seasons in Milwaukee and one in Brooklyn and spent two seasons as an assistant with the Lakers. This is his fifth season in eight coaching in the playoffs. Wolves coach Chris Finch is moving better and is up and around the Wolves bench more after having knee surgery just before the start of the Denver series.

Edge/ Wolves

PREDICTION

The Mav' backcourt is formidable, and the Wolves have faced both Irving and Doncic only once this season. Doncic has battled injury and illness in these playoffs. Towns should have it easier defending now that Durant and Jokic aren't in the scouting report, but he remains the X factor. As he goes, so go the Wolves in a lot of ways. Like everybody else, Mavs will try to keep the ball out of Edwards' hands. Their frontcourt trade-deadline additions make them gritty and more physical.

Wolves in seven