Luka Dončić touches his first NBA Final after leading the Mavericks to another victory | Basketball | Sports

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NBA Playoffs – playoffs – working day 40

Dallas Mavericks

Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves

In his sixth season in the NBA, Luka Dončić touches his first grand final with his fingertips. The Slovenian guard closed his best regular season with an average of 33.9 points and has continued to be the Mavericks’ key man in the playoffs. This Sunday, the Dallas team achieved its third consecutive victory (116-107) in the Western Conference final against the Minnesota Timberwolves, leaving it just one win away from qualifying. After being the key player in the last quarter of the first game and hitting the decisive three-pointer in the second, Dončić, 25, scored 33 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists this Sunday. Irving followed him with another 33 points.

The Mavericks have undergone a radical change in one year. Last season they were not only left out of the playoffs, but they were even fined for letting themselves get lost (and thus having better options to reinforce themselves in the draft). At that time, the signing of the eccentric and veteran Kyrie Irving, 32, seemed not to have worked out. He and Dončić, two players accustomed to being the undisputed leaders of their teams, did not mix well. Now, the two superstars look like they are neck and neck and combine in an attack that is very difficult to stop.

Adding to the chemistry between the two has been the addition of rookie Derek Lively II, 2.16 meters tall, and, in the second part of the season, the signing of Daniel Gafford, 2.08 meters tall, from the Washington Wizards, with which they have strengthened their inner game. At the beginning of the year, Derrick Jones Jr. also arrived from the Bulls and, along with Gafford, power forward PJ Washington joined from the Charlotte Hornets. Therefore, of the players who regularly enter the rotation, the only ones remaining from last season are Dončić and Irving. The team has gained defensive intensity and versatility in attack.

With the arrival of Gafford and Washington, the Mavericks had one of the best win/loss balances in the league in the final stretch of the season. Therefore, their fifth position in the West standings in the regular season was somewhat misleading. Once the postseason arrived, the Mavericks accounted for the Clippers and then the Oklahoma City Thunder, the best in the West in the regular season, with a triple double by Dončić in the final game. Now they are one step away from eliminating the Wolves, who in turn eliminated the defending champions, the Denver Nuggets.

In the Timberwolves, their young star Anthony Edwards, 22, has not felt comfortable in any of the games in the Western final, although this Sunday signed the mate of the match, and perhaps of the playoffs, and finished with 26 points, 9 rebounds and 10 assists. After his great performances in the first round against the Phoenix Suns and in several of the games against the Denver Nuggets, against Dallas he has had poor shooting percentages, frequent turnovers and lack of clarity in attack. The Mavericks’ defensive aids blocked his attempts to the basket and the outside men prevented him from shooting from distance.

The Timberwolves have stood out as the best defense in the league. In the conference semifinal with the Denver Nuggets, they won the four games in which they managed to keep Nikola Jokić’s team under 100 points (including the seventh, where they stayed at a ridiculous 70) and lost the three in which the rival score It went above that figure. The Mavericks have surpassed 100 points in all three matchups against the Wolves and have won all three.

The Dallas team’s offensive variants have overwhelmed them time and time again. Both Dončić and Irving alternate between three-point shots and driving under the rim as if it were nothing. When the Wolves try to close them down, they find a way to double towards Gafford and Lively II (who this Sunday had to retire after a blow to the head) or to open again to the outside, where Derrick Jones Jr is also a good three-pointer. Those from Minnesota have been trying to rotate the defense around Dončić, but their players have been charged with fouls. Rudy Gobert (best defenseman of the year), Jaden McDaniels and Mike Conley, three starters, had four before the end of the third quarter.

In reality, the Mavericks are not being as superior in the West final as could be deduced from the 3-0 lead they have. They won the first game by three points, the second by one and in the third they were tied almost until the end.

This Sunday, the Dallas team won the first quarter (33-28) and extended the lead in the second until they went to halftime 60-52. The third quarter, with 10 points from Edwards, including his spectacular dunk, belonged to the Wolves, so the final quarter was tied at 87. With 3:40 left, the score was still tied (104-104) , but a triple from Washington has put Dallas ahead and there has been no turning back. The Wolves failed in their attacks and Dončić and Irving were in charge of putting distance again. A alley oop by Gafford with an additional shot served by the Slovenian has made it an insurmountable 114-105 with 34 seconds remaining. A basket by the Wolves and some free throws by Irving rounded out the score.

The 154 times that a tie has started 3-0, the team with the advantage has ended up winning. This time, both the Celtics against the Pacers in the East, and the Mavericks against the Wolves in the West, have that difference, so the Boston-Dallas final seems a foregone conclusion.

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