Mavericks headed for Celtics NBA Finals showdown after crushing Timberwolves

Minneapolis, Minnesota - The Dallas Mavericks, fueled by 36 points each from Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, routed the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-103 on Thursday to clinch the Western Conference crown and book an NBA title showdown with the Boston Celtics.

Kyrie Irving (l.) and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks celebrate after winning the Western Conference Finals against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Kyrie Irving (l.) and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks celebrate after winning the Western Conference Finals against the Minnesota Timberwolves.  © Collage: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect

Denied a sweep at home on Tuesday, the Mavs left no room for doubt in Minneapolis as they wrapped up the best-of-seven conference finals 4-1 to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since they won the title in 2011.

The Celtics will host game one of the championship series on June 6.

Slovenian star Doncic and Irving had their way with the league's top-rated defense, Doncic taking the game by the throat in the opening minutes and earning the Western Conference Finals MVP title.

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"My mindset was: set the tone," said Doncic, who scored 20 points in a fast-paced first quarter, one more than the Timberwolves managed as a team.

He scored four of his six three-pointers in the first period, including a bomb from the center court logo, and the Mavs closed the quarter on a 17-1 scoring run to put the Timberwolves on their heels for good.

Irving got going with 15 points in the second quarter as he and Doncic combined for 44 first-half points – four more than the Timberwolves put on the board before halftime, when the Mavs led 69-40.

Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 28 points each for Minnesota, Towns adding 12 rebounds for the third-seed Timberwolves, who had swept the Phoenix Suns in the first round and stunned the defending champion Denver Nuggets in seven games in the second.

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Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic was named Western Conference Finals MVP.
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic was named Western Conference Finals MVP.  © David Berding / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The Timberwolves had been 3-0 in elimination games this post-season, with wins in games six and seven against the Nuggets as well as their victory on Tuesday.

But the early damage by Doncic and Dallas' disruptive defense put this one out of reach early, and the Mavs grabbed the first double-digit victory of a hard-fought series.

"Luka came out tonight and put his stamp on the game," Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. "Hit a couple of bomb threes, kind of got them loosened up offensively."

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Dereck Lively returned for the Mavs after missing game four with a neck sprain suffered when Towns inadvertently kneed him in the back of the head in game three.

The energetic reserve went down hard again when he took a blow to the back of the head from Naz Reid, who was charged with a flagrant foul shortly before halftime.

Lively stayed in the game and finished with nine points.

Dallas are in the finals for the third time, chasing a second title to go with the one they captured back in 2011.

The Celtics, who swept the Indiana Pacers in four games in the Eastern Conference finals, share the record for most NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers at 17.

Boston is back in the title series for the second time in three years.

Cover photo: Collage: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect

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