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Luka Doncic's step-back game-winner puts Dallas up 2-0 on Minnesota - NBC Sports

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NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Minnesota Timberwolves

May 24, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves during game two of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Edwards and his Timberwolves have never been on this stage before, and the bright lights of the Western Conference Finals seem to be making them sweat—they have led the first two games in this series with 2:10 remaining.

Minnesota is 0-2.

Luka Doncic has been here before — and he lives for these moments.

Doncic had 15 fourth-quarter points for the Mavericks as part of a comeback. Then, with the game on the line, he got the matchup he wanted on Rudy Gobert, then got to the shot he wanted, a step-back 3 for his spot. That was it.

LUKA 3-POINTER IN THE CLUTCH TO TAKE THE LEAD WITH 3 SECONDS LEFT IN THE 4Q 🤯🎯DAL-MIN (1-0) | 4Q Live on TNT pic.twitter.com/6hNV77J8aV

— NBA (@NBA) May 25, 2024

“The play was to get Luka the ball and let Luka do what Luka does in those moments,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said of his late-game strategy.

What Luka did in those moments was get Dallas a 109-108 win that has them up a commanding 2-0 in the series headed back home for Game 3 on Sunday.

Minnesota is kicking themselves for letting another game get away.

“Two turnovers again, the ball got static…” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said of the final couple of minutes. “Same story as the other night, two turnovers in the guts of the game is not going to get it done.”

Dallas’ defense once again stepped up and kept Minnesota’s stars — Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns — in check. They combined for 36 points on 9-of-33 shooting (27.3%).

Naz Reid stepped up and almost bailed the Timberwolves out, scoring a team-high 23 points. He was 7-of-8 from 3 until, in the final seconds after Doncic’s bucket, Edwards threw him the ball as the clock was winding down and Reid’s 3 that would have given the Timberwolves the win rimmed out.

Doncic had a triple-double of 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. Kyrie Irving had another strong game with 20 points, and the centers Daniel Gafford and Derreck Lively II combined for 30 points, mostly off lobs from Doncic or Irving.

Minnesota learned its lessons from Game 1 and came out aggressive — it was not settling for 3s. In the first quarter alone, they had 15 shots in the paint and got to the foul line 11 times. Led by Edwards, the Timberwolves were getting downhill and attacking, and that worked—Minnesota led 32-26 after one.

Minnesota’s relentless attacks of the rim softened the Dallas defense a little, and then the kick-out passes were there — the Timberwolves were making their 3s. Mike Conley and Reid started 6-of-6 from beyond the arc. Minnesota pushed their lead out to 18 in the second quarter, however, an 8-2 run by Dallas in the final minutes of the first half made it a respectable 60-48 Minnesota lead at the half.

Things change starting midway in the third quarter. Doncic started carving up Minnesota’s defense, both with shots and finding guys inside, and Minnesota’s double-digit lead was down to two. However, another Naz Reid 3 made it Minnesota by 7 at the break.

The fourth quarter saw things get tighter and the teams traded leads back-and-forth.

But it was Doncic and the Mavericks who had the last laugh — and Doncic let Gobert know about it.

Doncic was chirping, but he had every right to after that performance.

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