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Mavs edge T’Wolves for 2-0 NBA series lead

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Luka Doncic drained the go-ahead three-pointer with 3.8 seconds remaining to lift Dallas to a 109-108 victory over Minnesota yesterday in another NBA Western Conference finals thriller.

Doncic delivered a triple-double of 32 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists, and the Mavericks – who trailed by 18 in the second quarter – handed the Timberwolves a second straight home defeat to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Kyrie Irving got off to a slow start and was hindered by foul trouble, but he scored 13 of his 20 points in the frantic fourth quarter, which featured 11 lead changes.

The Timberwolves were up 108-103 with 1:29 remaining, but Doncic found Irving for a three-pointer from the corner, and after a Mavs timeout, the Slovenian superstar got the ball and wrong-footed Rudy Gobert, nailing a three over Minnesota’s Defensive Player of the Year for what proved the decisive basket.

Naz Reid made seven of nine three-point attempts for Minnesota and had a last chance for the Timberwolves, but his long-range effort bounced out at the buzzer.

Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic drives to the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jaden McDaniels. PHOTO: AFP

“That was an exciting playoff game,” Irving said. “Luka carrying us, man – that’s what we’re talking about right there in terms of leadership.”

Daniel Gafford scored 16 points and five blocked shots, PJ Washington scored 10 and Dereck Lively chipped in 14 off the bench for the Mavericks.

“Everybody contributed,” Irving said.

Anthony Edwards scored 21 points with five rebounds and seven assists for Minnesota but connected on just five of 17 shot attempts on another tough shooting night.

Mike Conley scored 18 points for the Timberwolves, Gobert had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 15 points.

Leading 32-26 at the end of the first quarter, the Timberwolves pushed their lead to as many as 18 only for the Mavs to close the first half on an 8-2 scoring run to whittle the deficit to 60-48 at the break.

Doncic scored 11 points in the third quarter, when the Mavs cut the deficit to two points three times in the waning minutes.

Irving’s floater in the lane pulled the Mavs within 79-77, but Gobert drove for a layup and Reid drilled a three-pointer that saw Minnesota take an 86-79 lead into the fourth.

Irving gave Dallas their first lead since the first quarter with a three-pointer that put the Mavs up 87-86 early in the final frame.

Reid restored Minnesota’s lead with a three-pointer of his own and the back-and-forth battle was on.

Dallas coach Jason Kidd said it was up to Doncic whether to decide if he should go for a three-pointer out of the team’s final overtime.

“The play was to get Luka the ball and let Luka do what Luka does in those moments,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “We talked about taking a two, but when he got to dancing with Gobert you could see the step-back was coming and the rest was history.”

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch, who said after his team’s Game One defeat that they needed to be better in clutch moments, pointed to two crucial turnovers in the final minute.

He said 22-year-old rising star Edwards needed to “pick up his decision making” but shrugged off the suggestion he needed more minutes of rest.

“Maybe we should have gotten him out at the beginning of the fourth, but it’s the Western Conference finals, man,” Finch said. “You can’t look to hide people or try to take breaks. I don’t see Kyrie shying away from a matchup out there.”