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Luka Doncic helps Mavs take down Wolves in Game 1

USA TODAY
                                Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic shoots against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels.
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USA TODAY

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic shoots against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels.

To hear Luka Doncic describe it, the Dallas Mavericks’ victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals resembled a relay race.

Kyrie Irving burst out of the starting gate with 24 first-half points to keep Dallas in contention. Doncic took the baton at halftime and helped the Mavericks earn a 108-105 win with 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter tonight in Minneapolis.

“Amazing,” Doncic said. “(Kyrie) got us going. Without him, we’d probably be down 20 at halftime, so he got us going. So I had to help him in the second half a little bit.”

Irving finished with 30 points on 12-for-23 shooting for Dallas. Daniel Gafford (10 points, nine rebounds) and Dereck Lively II (nine points, 11 rebounds) narrowly missed double-doubles.

Jaden McDaniels scored 24 points and made 6 of 9 attempts from beyond the arc to lead the Timberwolves. Anthony Edwards finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 16.

The Mavericks, who shot 49.7 percent (43 for 87) from the field for the game, outscored Minnesota 26-22 in the fourth quarter to help secure the three-point win.

Edwards said he and his teammates struggled to maintain their energy level for the full 48 minutes. He acknowledged that the team’s comeback win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 in the conference semifinals might have sapped some of their energy.

“Yeah, for sure,” Edwards said. “You all can see it. We were a step behind everybody, especially myself. Kyrie got a transition layup … and he just outran me. I was just exhausted. So yeah, for sure. But we’ll be all right.”

Dallas went on a 13-0 run to seize a 97-89 lead with 7:38 to go. Doncic started the run with seven straight points and finished it with a pair of free throws.

Minnesota, which shot just 42.7 percent (38 for 89) from the field, responded with a 10-1 run to grab a 99-98 edge with 4:39 left. Towns hit a 3-pointer from 28 feet to put the Timberwolves on top.

After a timeout, Edwards made a 3-pointer to increase Minnesota’s lead to 102-98 with 3:37 to play.

The Mavericks answered with back-to-back 3-pointers by Doncic and P.J. Washington to go ahead 104-102 with 1:56 left. Doncic followed with a step-back jump shot to make it 106-102 with 49.2 seconds to go.

Dallas maintained the lead the rest of the way.

The Timberwolves clung to an 83-82 advantage at the end of the third quarter.

Gafford threw down a pair of alley-oop dunks to start the second-half scoring for the Mavericks. Derrick Jones Jr. followed a couple minutes later with a dunk that put Dallas on top 67-66 for its first lead since the opening quarter.

Minnesota led 62-59 at halftime. McDaniels had 19 points before the break, which marked a playoff career high for him in any half.

The Timberwolves led by eight in the final minute of the first half, but Irving scored five points in the last 22 seconds to pull Dallas within three. He finished the scoring by converting a three-point play on a basket and a free throw with 0.7 seconds left.

The teams will reconvene on Friday night for Game 2.

“That’s only one,” Doncic said. “We’ve got three more to go.”

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