Wolves lament failure to execute late in Game 1 loss to Mavs

May 23, 2024, 1:49 AM

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Timberwolves coach Chris Finch used two words to describe what cost his team in its 108-105 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals Wednesday.

"No composure," Finch said.

The Wolves committed five of their 10 turnovers in the final frame, when the Mavs outscored them 10-3 in the final 3 minutes, 37 seconds to erase what was a four-point lead for Minnesota.

"We haven't really closed quarters very well, closed halves very well over the last handful of games," Finch continued. "It cost us a game in the Denver series. It certainly had an impact on this game tonight, too. We've got to be better in clutch moments."

The Wolves' late mistakes erased the 13-1 run they had gone on over a 4:01 span in the middle of the fourth quarter to turn an eight-point deficit into a four-point cushion.

First, Dereck Lively II grabbed an offensive rebound off a Kyrie Irving missed layup with nobody boxing out the Mavs' rookie center. Lively pitched the ball back out to an open Luka Doncic for 3.

Three straight turnovers followed shortly thereafter for the Wolves. Jaden McDaniels dribbled toward the baseline with nowhere to go, jumped and had to throw the ball back inbounds, where Doncic easily picked it off for a steal that ignited a break that ended with an open corner 3-point make by P.J. Washington.

Next,  Karl-Anthony Towns cleaned up a Mike Conley missed 3 by dunking in the putback, but he was called for offensive goaltending for touching the ball when it was still in the cylinder -- a call that was backed up by the video replay center in Secaucus, New Jersey.

Finally, Conley -- with the Wolves still down by only two -- threw a lob to Rudy Gobert in traffic that Doncic intercepted for another steal.

"I think we just got to do the small things a little better," said McDaniels, who finished with a team-high 24 points on 9-for-15 shooting. "They had a couple offensive rebounds at the end and they turned into points. So it's the little things, for real."

After the Mavs went up by four with 7 seconds remaining on a pair of Irving free throws, Minnesota received yet another opportunity it couldn't execute.

Improbably, Conley was able to draw a foul on Mavs guard Josh Green from beyond the arc with 1.8 seconds remaining.

If the 17-year veteran would have made the first two free throws and purposely missed the third, Minnesota could have had a chance to tie the game with a tip-in at the buzzer.

Instead, Conley made the first and missed the second, fumbling the opportunity. For the game, the Wolves shot 11-for-18 on free throws and the Mavs shot 16-for-17.

Conley said the Wolves' first-round sweep of the Phoenix Suns and second-round victory over the defending-champion  Denver Nuggets in seven games didn't necessarily prepare Minnesota for a final few minutes like it found itself in Wednesday.

"I think we haven't been tested like this where we've had to trade basket to basket, late-game free throw situations or fouling situations, stuff that we have to be better at," Conley said. "But we'll learn from it. I think each game we've learned a lot about ourselves, a lot we can get better at. Obviously, it's going to be a long series, regardless of what happened tonight."