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Mavericks take stranglehold of WCF with Game 3 win

Glenn James / National Basketball Association / Getty

DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic lunged for the ball after a steal by Anthony Edwards, knocking it far enough away to create a scramble and a jump ball the Dallas superstar won.

The Mavericks made all the big plays again — on both ends of the court — and are a win away from their first trip to the NBA Finals in 13 years.

Doncic and Kyrie Irving scored 33 points apiece and Dallas put together a decisive run in the final five minutes to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-107 on Sunday night for a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

The 14-3 finish gave the Mavs a fifth consecutive playoff victory after Dereck Lively II left with a sprained neck when the rookie center took an accidental shot to the back of the head from Karl-Anthony Towns’ knee.

No team in NBA playoff history has rallied from 3-0 down. Game 4 is Tuesday night in Dallas.

“We just say one more, we need one more,” Doncic said. “Nothing done. They have an amazing team, so nothing (is) done yet. We’ve got to get one more, and then if we get one more, we need the rest.”

P.J. Washington started the decisive stretch with a corner 3-pointer after Doncic passed to Irving, who sent the ball to Washington.

The co-stars took over from there.

Doncic hit a shot in the lane for a four-point lead, Irving sent the crowd into a frenzy on a falling-down jumper and Doncic found Daniel Gafford for an alley-oop dunk and a 113-105 lead with 34 seconds left. Gafford blocked Mike Conley’s layup attempt at the other end.

“They’re trying to double me the whole game, trying to double Kai, so that just makes us better,” Doncic said. “Everybody touches the ball, everybody plays. That’s amazing win. You know, we come down to the stretch and we execute.”

Edwards had 26 points for the Wolves, but just four after scoring eight consecutive points for Minnesota to get the Wolves even in the third quarter.

“I never think the sky is falling,” Edwards said. “I’m always positive, always happy. Been through the works, so the sky’s never falling for me.”

Towns scored 14 points but missed all eight 3s, including one when the deficit was four with 1:25 remaining.

After taking a 104-102 lead on Kyle Anderson’s floater with five minutes to go, Minnesota — which couldn’t hold leads of 18 points in the first half and five points in the final 90 seconds of Game 2 — missed seven consecutive shots.

“You’ve got to try to score alongside of them,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said. “The whole series, we’ve struggled to close games. These three-minutes games that we’re playing, we’re losing.”

Doncic, whose game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds of Game 2 in Minnesota put Dallas firmly in control of the series, was 10 of 20 and 5 of 11 from deep.

Irving, who won the 2016 title alongside LeBron James with Cleveland, scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and finished 12 of 20 and 3 of 6 from long range.

The Mavs, with 2011 NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki watching from center court, are the closest they’ve been to the NBA’s biggest stage since the big German led them to their only championship.

Edwards was 11 of 24, but took just three shots in the fourth quarter, making two. The 22-year-old star who has acknowledged fatigue in the series had nine rebounds and nine assists.

“We can’t be anything but positive at this point,” Edwards said. “We can’t be negative. Try to get one win at a time.”

In the second quarter, Lively absorbed the kind of contact normally found on football fields not far from Kansas City Chiefs stars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, the quarterback-tight end pair sitting courtside.

The rookie from Duke stayed on the court holding his head after it snapped forward on the accidental contact. Lively was down for several minutes before appearing dazed as he was helped off the court and taken to the locker room.

Lively fell as Mike Conley was driving for a missed shot, and Towns was pursuing an offensive rebound when his knee hit Lively’s head in the second quarter.

The 20-year-old Lively and Gafford, the starter, played a big role in helping Dallas take a 2-0 lead. Lively is 12 of 12 from the field in the series, including three makes in Game 3.


This story has been updated to correct the Mavericks’ final run to 14-3 instead of 12-3.



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