Mavericks stand tall against Timberwolves with big effort around the rim

Published 8:52 am Thursday, May 23, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

MINNEAPOLIS  — Few teams can match the size of the Minnesota Timberwolves with their trio of towers in NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, four-time All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns and Sixth Man of the Year Naz Reid.

The revamped Dallas Mavericks showed they might just be able to stand tall against Minnesota.

Dereck Lively II, the 7-foot-1 rookie Dallas acquired on draft night after he was selected 12th overall, and 6-10 Daniel Gafford, who was a trade-deadline pickup in February, had a sizeable impact around the rim Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, a 108-105 victory for the Mavericks.

Email newsletter signup

“If anything, with our team and our defense, the way that we’re built, the length and size that we have, we can’t allow points in the paint,” Towns said. “Our biggest advantage in the league is the three-big lineup that we have. We can’t allow that. So we’ve got to be tougher in there.”

With Lively leading the way off the bench, Dallas’ center duo altered the game with its rim protection and rebounding. The Mavericks outrebounded the Timberwolves 48-40, had eight blocks and held a 62-38 advantage on points in the paint.

“When you have that many points in the paint against the No. 1 team defensively, we’ll take it, if that’s what you’re going to give us,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said.

Lively finished with nine points and 11 rebounds, including four offensive boards, to go with two blocks. Gafford added nine rebounds, with four on the offensive end.

“I’ve got to do a better job on the rebounds,” said Gobert, who had just seven rebounds. “I can’t let these guys just get offensive rebounds. I’ll be better.”

With Lively and Gafford inside, Minnesota didn’t try to attack the paint. The Timberwolves took 49 of their 89 shots from 3-point territory. Towns finished 6-of-20 shooting, including 2 of 9 from 3.

Wolves star Anthony Edwards, who bullied his way to the rim at many points during the first two playoff series, also settled to shoot from the outside.

Twelve of Edwards’ 16 shots were from 3. He ended up 6 of 16 for the game and 5 of 12 from deep while scoring 19 points. Gafford and Lively sank close to the basket — as opposed to Phoenix’s Jusuf Nurkic and Denver’s Nikola Jokic staying a bit higher — and that threw off the precocious 21-year-old.

“They’re down the floor. The big man, he’s not super high up like the last two series,” Edwards said. “We didn’t really know what to expect. So, came off and was open a bunch of times, took the shots. I’ll make them next time and live with it.”

So will the Mavericks.