The Dallas Mavericks (22-15) notched their most impressive win of the season Sunday, 115-108 over the Minnesota Timberwolves (25-10), who came into the matchup with the best record in the NBA’s Western Conference.
The Mavericks did it by pouring in clutch shots down the stretch and also by clamping down defensively against the Timberwolves, who came into the matchup with the more highly advertised defense — one of the best in the NBA.
“The last 10-15 games we’ve been more connected on defense,” star guard Luka Dončić said in his postgame press conference. “When we play good defense, we get rebounds, and we can run the floor. That’s when we’re one of the best teams in the NBA.”
Here are six clutch numbers from the Mavericks’ latest clutch win. Speaking of numbers in the clutch, the Wolves came into the matchup with the NBA’s best record in clutch games, at 11-2, while the Mavs were 11-5 in clutch games coming in. After improving to 12-5 in clutch games with the win over the Wolves, Dallas is up to second in the league in clutch win percentage, behind only Minnesota.
69-60: Dynamic duo scoring advantage
Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving combined for 69 points in the win, one shy of their high-scoring output as a tandem in a game. Remember that one? It was less than a week ago, on Wednesday when Dončić and Irving combined for 70 points in a 126-97 drubbing of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Dončić paced the Mavs with 35 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks in the win. Irving finished with 34 points, eight boards and five assists.
The Minnesota duo of Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns nearly kept pace, combining for 60 points. After torching the Mavericks for 44 points the last time these two teams met, Edwards struck again to lead all scorers with 36 points and 10 rebounds. Towns added 24 points, seven boards and a couple blocked shots as well.
11-0: Twin 11-0 runs late in the fourth quarter
Dallas led 100-95 after Dončić’s fourth step-back 3-pointer of the game and a driving scoop from Grant Williams midway through the fourth quarter. From there, Edwards and Towns combined to go on an 11-0 run by themselves in the next two minutes and change to put the Timberwolves in front, 106-100.
Frankly the Mavs looked cooked with 3:53 left to play.
But Dallas responded with an 11-0 run of its own with a Dwight Powell 3-point play, two clutch Irving 3-balls and a vicious Derrick Jones Jr. jam through the lane with 25 seconds left in regulation. The lane opened up before Jones just below the top of the key as the Minnesota defense scrambled to recover from double-teaming Dončić in the backcourt.
And all of a sudden at 111-106 it was the Wolves who were cooked. The Mavs went on to win 115-108.
19-9: Wolves’ advantage to start the fourth
The Mavericks were sitting pretty to start the fourth quarter, increasing their lead through three to 91-82 after outlasting Minnesota in the first half for a 60-56 halftime lead. But The Timberwolves spent the first six minutes of the fourth methodically whittling the Dallas lead down to a stub.
Edwards and Towns combined for 21 points in the fourth quarter to bring the Wolves back. Edwards hit a pullup 3-pointer with 5:55 left to cut the Mavs’ lead to two points, 100-98. Then less than a minute later, Minnesota would grab the lead before it would yo-yo back and forth in the game’s final minutes.
13 and 3: Luka breaks it open in the third
Dončić had what you might describe as a quiet 17 points in the first half before breaking the game open in the third quarter for 13 points and three assists, as the Mavs built their four-point halftime lead into a 91-82 advantage heading to the fourth.
His step-back 3-pointer came alive in the third, as he went 3-of-4 from deep in the frame. Dončić was just 1-of-5 from 3-point territory in the first quarter before hitting 1-of-2 in the second and 3-of-4 in the third.
Dončić also displayed some toughness on defense throughout the third. He even helped get a couple of defensive stops against Towns as Dallas built its third-quarter lead.
“I’m strong,” Dončić said. “I told them not to double. I wanted to see if I could get a couple of stops. I love playing in the post.”
35: Irving rebounds in the last four games
Irving came into the game on the heels of the best rebounding stretch in a three-game span in his career. He grabbed nine boards apiece in the three games before Sunday’s matchup with Minnesota and grabbed eight more Sunday night. That’s now a running total of 35 boards in Irving’s last four games.
That kind of effort on the boards from your 6-foot-2 point guard is just what this team needed upon Irving’s return from injury at the start of the New Year.
“I’ve been doing that for years,” Irving said when asked about his tenacity down the stretch. “It was a collective effort, but I was glad that I could step up and give the offense a spark.”
55% vs. 20%: Mavs’ 3-point disparity
Dončić and Irving combined to shoot 11-for-20 from 3-point land in the win over the Wolves, even despite Dončić’s cold start from beyond the arc. The rest of the Dallas roster combined to shoot 4-of-20 from downtown in the win.
Jones Jr. went 1-for-6 from 3-point range, and Tim Hardaway Jr. went 2-for-8. Just something to keep an eye on as Dallas moves on to face Memphis at home on Tuesday. Dončić is 11-of-22 from 3-point territory in two games against Memphis so far this year.
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