MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Luka Doncic led a strong finish for the Dallas Mavericks, swishing crucial shots down the stretch, drawing a couple of fouls and even playing strong defense.

The Mavericks might not be the favorites in yet another series, but they stole home-court advantage from the Minnesota Timberwolves with this promising start.

Doncic had 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and Kyrie Irving scored 24 of his 30 in the first half to lift the Mavericks to a 108-105 victory over the Timberwolves in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night.

Dallas had a 62-38 advantage in points in the paint to offset a 6-for-25 shooting performance from deep.

“We made important ones,” said Doncic, who scored seven straight points over 63 seconds early in the fourth quarter to fuel a 13-0 run by the Mavericks for a 97-89 lead.

The Mavericks trailed 102-98 after a 3-pointer by Anthony Edwards with 3:37 left, before an 8-0 run the Wolves didn't stop until a tip-in with 10.5 seconds to go. For the first time in six tries under coach Jason Kidd, the Mavericks won the first game of a playoff series.

Jaden McDaniels had his third straight 20-plus-point game with 24 points for the Wolves, but Edwards - who earned his first All-NBA selection prior to the game, on the second team - was stifled for 19 points in a team effort from the Mavericks. Karl-Anthony Towns needed a late burst to get to 16 points and finished 6 for 20 from the floor.

The star power in this series is strong, and for the first night at least the Mavericks got what they needed from their leading duo while the Wolves largely struggled to run the offense around theirs.

“Terrible offense down the stretch: bad shots, turnovers, no composure,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said. “We've got to be better in clutch moments.”

Towns came to life with a long jumper, a lob to Rudy Gobert for a slam and a 3-pointer on a 2-minute burst to give the Wolves the lead back with 4:39 to go on the way to a 10-0 run that Doncic ended with a 3-pointer. P.J. Washington, who had 13 points and seven rebounds, hit from deep to put the Mavericks back in front with 1:56 to go.

Towns thought he tied the game with a putback dunk on the next possession, but that was waved off for basket interference.

Minnesota hosts Game 2 on Friday night.

Edwards, who went scoreless in the third quarter, added 11 rebounds and eight assists.

“He’s an amazing player. We have to put multiple bodies on him,” Doncic said. “If he’s going 1-on-1, it’s kind of tough to stop him.”

Naz Reid had 15 points and Kyle Anderson added 11 points off the bench for the Wolves, who had two days off after dethroning defending champion Denver with a Game 7 comeback from a 20-point deficit to win the second-round series.

The transition was sharp from the Nuggets and NBA MVP Nikola Jokic’s deliberate and powerful style to the pick-and-roll-heavy Mavericks, who frequently lost their opponents off screens for wide-open dunks. They moved with a purpose that kept the Wolves from consistently setting their half-court defense around the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Gobert at the rim.

Irving’s stunning burst on the break and on the drive presented a unique challenge the Wolves and their league-leading defense didn’t face in the last round, when they held the Nuggets to an average of 85 points over their four wins.

“He got us going. Without him, we would probably be down 20 at halftime,” Doncic said. “I had to help him in the second half a little bit. So we switched roles this time.”

McDaniels, who played his usual relentless defense on the perimeter, was the catalyst on the other end of the court too with five 3-pointers in the first half, but Towns had trouble getting shots to fall and Edwards found his driving lanes constantly clogged.

“Jaden was the only one that came ready to play tonight,” Edwards said, “and I think everyone else let him down.”

The Mavericks have cranked up their defense since adding Daniel Gafford and Washington at the trade deadline, as top-seeded Oklahoma City can attest after losing in six games in the last round. Doncic chipped in, too, breaking up a lob from Mike Conley to Gobert for one of his three steals with 1:06 remaining and the Mavericks leading by two.

“No one panicked. There was just a lot of trust, no matter how bad or how good we’re playing,” Kidd said.


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