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West-best Timberwolves back home to face Mavericks

Jan 7, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket past Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) during the second quarter at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves will open a three-game homestand when they welcome the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night in Minneapolis.

Minnesota is coming off a 107-101 road win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night. The Timberwolves maintained their narrow lead over the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City for the top spot in the Western Conference standings.

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said he wants his players to stay focused as they return home. Minnesota had lost three of five games before it knocked off the Thunder.

“We really did a good job of finishing this game, which we hadn’t been doing,” Finch said. “Hopefully, it’s a good step and we can build on that part of it.”

The Timberwolves’ next test will come against the Mavericks, who are looking for back-to-back wins after a 131-129 victory against the Orlando Magic on Monday night. Dallas has won two of its last three games after losing four of the previous five contests.

Luka Doncic scored 45 points, dished 15 assists and grabbed nine rebounds in the win against Orlando. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 36 points and eight rebounds, and rookie Dereck Lively II registered a double-double with 20 points and 11 boards.

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said Doncic’s dominance could not be understated. He compared Doncic with Michael Jordan during a radio appearance on KEGL-FM 97.1.

“I’ve said this before, and I’ll say this for as long as I’m here, you can’t take this young man for granted,” Kidd said. “He’s better than Dirk (Nowitzki), he’s in the atmosphere of MJ, the best to ever do it. LeBron James, Kobe (Bryant). … Just to appreciate what this young man is doing at the age of 24 is something that Dallas has never seen.

“I’ve said this internally: … He does things that Dirk could never do. And now is the opportunity of getting the right people around him to ultimately win a championship.”

In 40 games this season, Doncic is averaging 34.7 points, 9.6 assists and 8.6 rebounds. Kyrie Irving averages 25.2 points, and Hardaway rounds out the top three with 18.4.

Minnesota has a half-dozen players averaging in double digits. Anthony Edwards leads the way with 25.9 points per game, Karl-Anthony Towns is averaging 22.6 and Rudy Gobert is averaging 13.3 along with a team-high 12.5 rebounds.

Naz Reid (12.4 points), Jaden McDaniels (10.9) and Mike Conley (10.9) also are in double digits.

Finch said the Timberwolves’ success is a credit to its league-leading defense (107.4 ppg allowed) as much as it is to its offense. He praised Gobert for his efforts on the defensive end after the win over Oklahoma City.

“Rudy has this incredible sense, just like a scorer likes to take over a game, he has an incredible sense of being able to (increase) his presence in the paint,” Finch said. “It’s pretty special to watch when you really think about it.”

This is the fourth and final matchup between the teams during the regular season. Minnesota won the first two games but lost the most recent meeting 115-108 on Jan. 7 at Dallas.

–Field Level Media

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