Luka Doncic’s late 3-pointer lifts Mavs, puts T-wolves in 2-0 hole

Luka Doncic hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with Rudy Gobert guarding him at the top of the key with 3 seconds left, posting his fifth triple-double of the playoffs to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 109-108 victory and a 2-0 lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference finals on Friday night.

Doncic had 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for his eighth triple-double in 42 career postseason games for the Mavericks, who erased an 18-point deficit that stood late in the second quarter and were still down 16 midway through the third.

Naz Reid went 7-for-9 from 3-point range for 23 points, but his last try at the buzzer rimmed in and out to send the Wolves to Dallas for Game 3 on Sunday in a big hole after another off night by stars Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Kyrie Irving had 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a corner 3-pointer with 1:05 left that pulled the Mavericks within two. Then the Wolves sandwiched turnovers around a missed shot by Doncic. Edwards recklessly threw the ball out of bounds off a drive with 13 seconds left, giving the Mavericks the ball with the chance to win.

Doncic took the inbounds pass and dribbled to set up a screen by Dereck Lively II that triggered a switch by the Wolves, with NBA All-Defensive second-team pick Jaden McDaniels dropping with Lively’s roll and Defensive Player of the Year Gobert staying out on the top of the key.

After the swish, Doncic flexed his arms and yelled at the stunned crowd as his teammates swarmed him.

The lead for either side was three points or less from 10:50 remaining to 1:29 until Edwards — who had 21 points but is shooting 11-for-33 in the series — sank two free throws for a 108-103 edge. That came right after Irving missed both foul shots that had the crowd howling in honor of the promotion that awards a free Chick-fil-A sandwich.

Mike Conley scored 18 points and Gobert had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolves, who needed Reid — the NBA Sixth Man of the Year — more than ever. His top-of-the-key swish at the end of the third quarter gave the Wolves an 86-79 cushion just after the Mavericks closed the gap with a 21-7 spurt — mostly while Conley rested — over a 6:36 stretch.

Irving, who scored only five points in the first half after he had 24 of his 30 in Game 1 before halftime, gave the Mavericks their first lead since 7-6 with a 3-pointer to cap an 8-0 run that started the fourth quarter and made it 87-86.

Doncic, who flourished in the fourth quarter of Game 1 to finish with 33 points, has been fighting through what the Mavericks have listed on the league’s official injury report as a sprained right knee and left ankle soreness.

When he was subbed out late in the first quarter, Doncic jogged straight to the locker room before returning to the bench prior to his next shift. After running the floor for a fast-break layup late in the second quarter, Doncic was laboring and limping on the way back. He shot 5-for-14 before halftime.

The beauty of the 25-year-old Slovenian superstar’s game is that he hardly needs a full-strength spring in his step to dominate. He had Minnesota’s league-leading defense looking out of sorts on so many possessions with his laser-like passing.

The Wolves were blistered by the coaching staff for their effort and execution between games, and they stayed true to their form as a strong bounce-back team from the few times they’ve fallen flat this season. Conley had the offense running crisply and craftily whenever he was initiating.

When he wasn’t, though, the Wolves often got out of hand. Edwards forced a lot of shots and didn’t appear to have much of a plan when he had the ball. McDaniels, who had 20-plus points in each of the last three games, didn’t make a basket until midway through the third quarter.

Towns and Gobert were especially aggressive on offense early after the Wolves got eaten up in the paint, but they were still vulnerable on defense underneath as the Mavericks had their way with the persistent lobs to Daniel Gafford (16 points) and Lively (14 points).

Towns had 15 points on 4-for-16 shooting and gave way to Reid down the stretch.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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