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Mavericks 119, Wolves 115: Doncic Outduels Towns Down the Stretch

A thrilling last few minutes goes the Mavs’ way behind rookie star Luka Doncic.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

That sound you heard was the Minnesota Timberwolves crashing back to earth tonight in a 119-115 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Ryan Saunders’ Target Center debut.

It was an exciting fourth quarter, highlighted by a back and forth between Karl-Anthony Towns and Luka Doncic, both of whom took over late, but it was Doncic’s three in a broken floor situation that gave the Mavs a 117-115 lead with 22 seconds left. The Wolves turned the ball over on the following possession when both Dario Saric and Derrick Rose passed up open shots, and the Mavs hung on for only their fourth road win of the season.

The story of the game was Doncic, who finished with 29 points, eight boards, and 12 assists, and made play after play down the stretch. They call it “Luka Magic” in Dallas, and it was easy to see why tonight. He got to the rim with style, found shooters, and took over late with drives and the big three late, only his second triple (2-9) of the game. He is a magnificent player, especially at his age, and it was a real joy to watch him tonight even though he beat the Wolves.

It was really an uphill battle much of the night for the home team, who struggled shooting the ball in the first half. The shot only 36 percent over the first two quarters, and although they dominated the glass and did a reasonable job defensively, they were still looking at an 11 point halftime deficit.

In the second half, they made two monster runs—the first early in the third quarter was keyed by Josh Okogie, who made a couple of threes to get the Wolves rolling, and they were able to tie the game at 63. The Mavs reasserted control, however, after Towns went to the bench with his fourth foul. This time it was J.J. Barea slicing open the Wolves on the pick and roll, either finishing himself on his familiar array of shots around the basket, or finding shooters or cutters. Barea finished with 16 points and seven assists and was key in the Mavs taking control of the game again in the second half.

The Wolves fought back once again, this time behind Towns and Derrick Rose. Towns absolutely took over in his return to the game, scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter, including game-tying and lead-taking buckets in the final three minutes of the game.

Towns was once again a monster tonight, finished with 30 points, 11 boards, and four blocks. His bugaboo, however, has been foul trouble over recent games. He sat for long stretches in Oklahoma City, and again tonight he was limited to 30 minutes. He was dominant in those minutes, but the Wolves lost the game in the 18 minutes he did not play. The Wolves were +14 with Towns in the game, -18 in the 18 minutes he sat. Had he been able to go 35 minutes instead, the Wolves probably win the game. Towns needs to get this under control, because otherwise he is playing at an All-NBA level.

As is clear from the above, it was not a great night for the Wolves reserves. Derrick Rose recovered after a slow start and finished with 21 points, but otherwise, the group struggled. They got run out by the Mavs both in the second and third quarters, and the Wolves could not overcome those stints. Dario Saric was scoreless, Tyus Jones did not make an impact, and Gorgui Dieng struggled to protect the rim.

This was a disappointing loss because the Wolves have been terrific at home, the Mavs have been bad on the road, and the result tonight moves the Mavs even with the Wolves at 20-22. Dropping games like this when you are fighting an uphill battle for a playoff spot hurts.

The Wolves are back at it tomorrow night against another team with a similar record, the New Orleans Pelicans.

NOTES

  • All five starters as well as Derrick Rose were in double-figures, but I thought Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague really struggled tonight for the most part.
  • The Wolves surprisingly lost the turnover battle tonight—usually the Mavs are a high turnover team, but only had seven tonight (for nine Wolves points.) The Wolves turned it over 13 times and that turned into 21 Mavs points, a big difference in the game.
  • Another difference was the benches. I talked about the Wolves lack of production above, but the Mavs got big games from Barea, Dwight Powell (15 points on an array of dunks) and Jalen Brunson (nine points.)
  • Josh Okogie had a career high four threes (six attempts) and scored 15 points. All of them were vital hoops. It was nice to see him shooting with confidence.