A late one-point victory in a tight Western Conference finals between the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Mavericks escaping Minnesota up 2-0 is another story.

Dallas rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to take Game 2 109-108 behind a brilliant step-back 3-pointer from Luka Doncic over center Rudy Gobert with three seconds remaining that silenced the home crowd. The Timberwolves had one final possession, but Naz Reid’s 26-footer missed, and now the Mavericks will travel back to Dallas with a commanding series lead.

“I can’t move fast, but I can move faster than him,” Doncic said of his shot over Gobert during his postgame interview on TNT.

With his winning 3 over the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Doncic finished with a game-high 32 points with 10 rebounds and 13 assists to record his eighth career playoff triple-double.

The Mavericks trailed by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, but they methodically cut into Minnesota’s lead behind Doncic’s playmaking and clutch shooting from guard Kyrie Irving, who went 4-for-7 from 3 in the game.

Reid led the Wolves with 23 points as Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns once again struggled; the duo combined to shoot 9-for-33.

Dallas heads home with the chance to close out the series and reach the NBA Finals — despite outscoring Minnesota by just four points over the first two games. The Timberwolves’ comeback attempt will begin Sunday in Game 3.

Our NBA insiders break down Doncic’s clutch shot, the Timberwolves’ chances at getting back into the series and the biggest takeaway from a memorable Game 2.

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Luka: I have all the confidence in the world

Luka Doncic gives his instant reaction to his game-winning 3-pointer for the Mavs to seal Game 2.

1. Luka’s step-back winning 3 over Gobert was ______.

Ramona Shelburne: Legacy-making, for both him and Gobert. As much as it was an incredible clutch shot by Doncic, it was also ammunition for all the Gobert detractors (See: Green, Draymond) who point out that the Defensive Player of the Year can be a liability when he switches onto a perimeter player. Of course, you can also question the defensive strategy of switching everything with Gobert on the floor. Instead, the Wolves watched Doncic put Gobert on skates for the win.

Andrew Lopez: Excellent, yet expected. Watching Doncic in clutch situations, it’s starting to get to the point where you expect him to make tough shots no matter what and no matter who is standing in front of him. It’s incredible to think he just turned 25 in February by the way carries himself in pressure moments. As soon as he got the switch, you felt the shot was going in even though he had missed his two other attempts in the fourth quarter.

Brian Windhorst: Let’s use Doncic’s own words on the court after his game winner: “You can’t f—ing guard me.” In that moment, it was the slower-footed Gobert against the expert footwork of Doncic. As TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal would say, “Barbecue chicken.”


2. What is your biggest takeaway from Game 2?

Shelburne: The Mavericks weren’t perfect in this game, but for the second game in a row they showed much more poise than the Timberwolves when it mattered. Minnesota should probably just flush the tape of its critical turnovers down the stretch. People are going to point to the poor shooting performances by Wolves stars Edwards and Towns, but Reid and Mike Conley did enough to pick up the slack for Minnesota to win the game if it hadn’t had so many unforced errors.

Lopez: As much as Doncic seemingly struggled to get going until late in the fourth quarter because of his various injuries, the Mavericks were able to pull this out because of the play of Irving. Doncic is clearly not 100 — left ankle soreness and right knee sprain are among his ailments — despite coming through with the game winner. But when Doncic rested, Irving stepped up. After just seven points in the first three quarters, Irving had 13 in the fourth quarter with four 3s, including with 1:05 to go to cut the Wolves’ lead to two.

Windhorst: Edwards is going through a tough patch at the worst time. His unforced turnover with 12.8 seconds left was a crucial mistake. But he’s really mired in a slump, shooting just 30-of-90 over the past five games. Unlike Game 1, when he settled for 3-pointers, he attacked the basket and forced the action Friday. But as one of the best finishers in the league, 70% in the restricted area during the regular season, Edwards was ineffective going up against Dallas’ size.


3 . The Wolves’ trailing 0-2 for the first time these playoffs is ____.

Shelburne: What it looks like when a young team experiences growing pains in real time. As disappointing as these two games were for the Wolves, I’m not ready to write them off. Not after they won Games 6 and 7 against the defending champion Denver Nuggets following three straight losses in the last round. Edwards has struggled in this series. I think the demands of defending Irving in addition to the energy Minnesota needs from him offensively are wearing on him. He even needed oxygen in the fourth quarter of Game 2, but I’ve seen enough from Edwards this season to know he will never lack confidence or energy when his team needs him.

Lopez: Heartbreaking. It looked as if Reid was going to save the day after he hit seven 3s and was carrying Minnesota in the second half, but he couldn’t get his eighth triple to fall as time expired. Towns and Edwards combined to go 9-of-33 in a one-possession game at home. This was after going 12-of-36 in a one-possession game at home in Game 1. Both games have been there for the taking. Minnesota has bounced back from the brink before, but to do so again, both players will have to take big steps in Games 3 and 4 in Dallas.

Windhorst: Regret. That’s what the Wolves were feeling in their locker room after the game. Ant for the turnover. Gobert for not getting the final stop. Coach Chris Finch for not using one of his two remaining timeouts. Towns for not having a better game. Two one-possession losses, lots of agony.

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