Timberwolves vs. Mavericks: Minnesota looking good heading into WC Final showdown

The Minnesota Timberwolves have reached the Western Conference Finals, the second time they have done so in franchise history.

The first time they reached the WCF was in 2004. They faced the Los Angeles Lakers back then, a team made up of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton.

Ironically, the first team that they disposed of was the Denver Nuggets. Minnesota won that series in five games, 4-1.

Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell, and Sam Cassell were the notable players at the time. They would eliminate the Sacramento Kings next before succumbing to the Lakers in 6 games.

Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves [photo credit: Anthony Edwards Instagram]
Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves [photo credit: Anthony Edwards Instagram]

Back in business after 20 years

After that run, the T-Wolves struggled to make it past the regular season. However, the last three years showed signs of promise. It was only this season that they were able to go deep and their chances are looking good.

Not long after the Timberwolves dethroned the defending champion Nuggets, odds makers installed Minnesota as slight favorites over the Dallas Mavericks.

The Timberwolves are -150 favorites while the Mavericks are at +125 per Sportsbettingdime.

Defense will be key for T-Wolves

Looking at the two teams, both are not short of firepower. The T-Wolves own an offensive rating of 116.1, sixth in the league. The Mavs are not far behind, sitting at the seventh spot with a 133.9 per NBA.com.

However, the big difference will be on the defensive side. The T-Wolves are 4th in the league, limiting the opposition to 107.6 points per contest. Dallas, on the other hand, is 6th with a 110.6.

Given that Minnesota has Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert up front, the Timberwolves are expected to hold up the defense. Aside from that, their combination is also expected to give Minnesota the advantage in rebounding. The T-Wolves are second in the league with a 54.1 average per game.

Beware of Doncic, Irving

Although they are 6th in rebounding percentage, the Mavs have something that T-Wolves coach Chris Finch will be wary about. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are two players to be worried about, a duo that will put the T-Wolves to the test.

In the playoffs so far, Doncic is averaging 27.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.1 assists, and 1.4 steals in 12 games. Irving, on the other hand, has been contributing 21.1 points, 5.4 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals.

Together, the T-Wolves need to find a way to defend “The Matador” and “Uncle Drew” if they want to maintain their mastery over the Mavs.

For the 2023-24 season, the Timberwolves have beaten the Mavs three times out of the four meetings thus far.

Ant needs to stay explosive

Offensively, there is no doubt that Edwards has been a vital reason. He is averaging 30.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.7 steals in 10 games.

While he, Towns, and Gobert are expected to lead the charge, players such as Jaden McDaniel also need to step up. “Seatbelt” is averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 blocks in the postseason. But he needs to up his game more if Minnesota is to advance to its first-ever NBA Final.

The same holds for Naz Reid and Mike Conley Jr. The Mavs have been a different team since the arrival of Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington. There is also Dereck Lively who has been helping out.

Finally and most importantly, the Mavs know what it takes to win. They won the 2011 NBA title and are aching to win their second crown.

Hence, it all boils down to who between the T-Wolves and the Mavs are hungrier in what promises to be an exciting Western Conference Final showdown.

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