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Mavericks vs. Timberwolves betting preview: Destined to go the distance

David Sherman / National Basketball Association / Getty

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The Western Conference finals tip off Wednesday with the Timberwolves versus the Mavericks, two teams that failed to advance past the first round last season. These Western Conference playoffs have proved things change quickly around the NBA and parity finally exists after decades of dynasties ruling the Association.

After a new champion is crowned in June, it'll be six consecutive years with a different team hoisting the trophy for the first time since 1975-80.

How did we get here?

The Mavs reinvented themselves at the trade deadline, securing more help for Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, prioritizing defense and rebounding.

Dallas' intentional effort to improve its defense paid off in the second round when the Mavs stymied the Thunder's offensive attack by shutting down driving lanes with flawless rotations and exceptional rim protection from Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively.

Doncic and Irving struggled throughout the second round, but P.J. Washington and Derrick Jones Jr. played huge roles in Dallas advancing to the conference finals.

Dallas took advantage of its height against Oklahoma City and emphasized securing offensive boards.

The Wolves' monstrous size and perfectly constructed frontcourt featuring Naz Reid, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rudy Gobert eliminated the defending champion Nuggets. Nikola Jokic was dominant, but Jamal Murray's inconsistent performances and the Nuggets' disappointing supporting cast led to the end of their reign.

Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels proved why the Wolves had the NBA's best defense, shutting down Denver's guards. Edwards solidified his case as one of the league's best shot-creators.

Who will win the series?

Timberwolves Mavericks
-170 +145

The Wolves are rightful favorites. Dallas has used its size to its advantage throughout the postseason, posting the second-best offensive rebounding percentage among playoff teams. However, Minnesota doesn't give anyone an edge on the offensive glass, ranking third in opponent offensive rebounding percentage this postseason.

The Mavs successfully limit points in the paint, allowing the fourth-fewest this postseason. But they haven't played a team like the Wolves, who are fifth in playoff points in the paint.

The Wolves have answers for Dallas' defensive strengths. Gafford and Lively will have their hands full against Minnesota's frontcourt.

On the other side, Dallas overcame an uncharacteristically inefficient and poor second-round offensive effort from Doncic, who battled through various injuries. Three days of rest heading into Game 1 should help Doncic recover, but only one day of rest between each game doesn't favor the Mavs. Doncic, who averaged 24 points against the Thunder, must return to form for Dallas to compete.

The same goes for Irving, whose perimeter defense has been commendable. However, his scoring is trending in the opposite direction. Irving averaged 15.7 points against the Thunder, his lowest-scoring playoff series since 2015.

There's no stopping a player as gifted as Doncic, but Lu Dort's physical defense hindered him in the second round. McDaniels - one of the league's best perimeter defenders - will draw the Doncic assignment in the conference finals.

The Mavs will force Mike Conley into the action for Doncic to see a more favorable matchup. The Wolves typically like keeping Gobert in drop coverage in the pick-and-roll, but Doncic has exploited drop. The Mavs will try to get Gobert away from the rim, while the Wolves attempt to keep him near the rim in a cat-and-mouse game.

Dallas has more star power than Minnesota, but it must show up every game for the Mavs to pull off the upset.

Betting Doncic to lead the series in threes (+120) is a series-long player prop worth targeting. Doncic leads the Mavs in 3-point attempts by a significant margin with 9.8 per game this postseason. That's two more attempts per game than Edwards, the second favorite. More attempts typically lead to more makes. Although Doncic has struggled with his 3-pointer this postseason, the volume still exists.

The Mavs had the NBA's best clutch offense during the regular season, but the Wolves have the best clutch offense in the postseason. Whatever the Mavs do, the Wolves can do better.

Both teams excel at defense, rebounding, and clutch offense with reliable perimeter stars. The Wolves' size allows them to rebound and defend at a higher level. However, the Mavs have superior depth, and their role players are more trustworthy. This has the makings of a classic series destined to go the distance.

In an April column, I gave out the Mavs to win the West at +1400. Unless Dallas' stars have a phenomenal series and overmatch Minnesota's stars, everything points to the Wolves advancing to the NBA Finals. But there's no value in hedging out of my Mavs future with the Wolves priced at -170 (63% implied probability). Instead of predicting a winner, let's forecast another seven-game series.

Pick: Series to go seven games +215

Sam Oshtry is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on X @soshtry for more betting coverage.

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