3 Timberwolves vs Mavericks Series Tone Setters to Watch for in Game One

NBA: Playoffs-Minnesota Timberwolves
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves advanced past the reigning NBA Champion Denver Nuggets in about the most dramatic fashion possible. Not only did they win a Game 7 on the road, but they engineered the greatest comeback in Game 7 history to pull it off. Now, they’re playing to go to the NBA Finals and only the Dallas Mavericks stand between them and that reality.

Despite being the fifth seed in these NBA Playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks embark upon the Target Center having just beaten the No. 1 seed OKC Thunder and they’re determined to play spoiler again. These two squads have faced each other four times this season, with Minnesota winning three of them.

Although there is something to be gleaned from those matchups, plenty of that goes out the window when the lights get this bright, especially when you Kyrie Irving didn’t play in three of those four regular season bouts. So, where does the focus turn for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals?

1. The Anthony Edwards vs Kyrie Irving matchup

If you missed it, the Minnesota Timberwolves star guard Anthony Edwards locked down Jamal Murray in Game 6. Of course, the Denver Nuggets star didn’t give Ant his due, but he made plenty of boneheaded decisions throughout the series, so that’s not surprising. Edwards already focused on Kyrie Irving when speaking after the Game 7 victory, and now we’ll see how that plays out.

Related: Draymond Green Finally Says Something Nice About the Minnesota Timberwolves

Irving is a battle-tested veteran with an NBA championship under his belt. He’s not the same player at 32 years old, but he still averaged more than 25 points per game this season and received comeback player of the year votes. How he pushes Edwards, and to what extent the Timberwolves youngster can lock him down, will be appointment viewing.

2. Can Jaden McDaniels contain Luka Doncic

During the series with the Denver Nuggets it was all about Nikola Jokic. Now the defensive focus shifts from the center position to a small forward. Jaden McDaniels, one of the best defenders in the entire league, will have his hands full when trying to slow the Dallas Mavericks star.

Doncic is able to fill it up from all over the court, and he can play both inside and out. McDaniels is seen as more of a perimeter defender, but with his size, it shouldn’t be a mismatch to keep up with Doncic. Throughout the playoffs McDaniels has been something of a savior for the Timberwolves as a second or third option. He will need to remain as much while continuing to bring his calling card defense on a nightly basis.

3. What version of Karl Anthony Towns do Minnesota Timberwolves get?

Chris Finch might be right to call the Minnesota Timberwolves Anthony Edwards’ team. Karl Anthony Towns is the grizzled veteran with tenure though. In this deep playoff run, it’s about the former first overall pick making good on the legacy that Flip Saunders envisioned for him. During the final two games of the Denver Nuggets series, Towns showed up in the absolute best way.

Related: Flip Saunders is Smiling Down on Timberwolves Dream He Started

Finch and Micah Nori blueprinted a game plan that had Towns locking down Nikole Jokic. It was an impressive performance. What his impact looks like against the Dallas Mavericks remains to be seen, but he will need to stay composed and in control. The most effective part about Towns’ presence in the playoffs has been staying on the court. Avoiding foul trouble and operating as a significant option will give both he and his team the best chance to advance.

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