Facing playoff sweep, Timberwolves fend off Dallas Mavericks to force Western Conference finals back to Minnesota

With their playoff elimination on the line, the Minnesota Timberwolves put in a gutsy performance to fend off the Dallas Mavericks 105-100 on Tuesday and force a Game 5 in the Western Conference finals.

Having lost the opening three games of the best-of-seven series, the Timberwolves faced the proposition of being swept by the Mavericks.

But Minnesota managed to keep the series alive, largely thanks to Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns who scored 29 and 25 points respectively.

Edwards also grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out nine assists, while 20 of Towns’ points came in the second half as the Timberwolves earned a courageous victory.

“Being aggressive,” Towns told reporters when asked what the key to the victory was.
“Ain’t no time to have any doubts in your mind, especially at this time, it’s Game 4, down 3-0. Ain’t no time to have any doubts.”

Towns’ performance was made even more impressive given the early foul trouble he found himself in. He picked up his fifth foul midway through the third quarter but continued to play with force and lead his team’s offensive output.

The 28-year-old hit a three-pointer with 5:41 remaining to put the Timberwolves ahead and they never relinquished their grip on the game. Towns did pick up his sixth foul and foul out of the game late on.

The Mavericks were led by its superstar guard Luka Dončić who finished with a triple-double of 28 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. In doing so, he moved into ninth position on the all-time list for most playoff triple-doubles – he’s now done it nine times.

However, Dončić took responsibility for the Game 4 defeat.

“That game’s on me. Just didn’t give enough energy,” Dončić said. “They won one game. We’ve just got to focus on the next one.”

Dallas’ other superstar guard, Kyrie Irving, echoed Dončić’s sentiment.

“[Dončić is] not alone in this,” Irving, who finished with 16 points, said. “I expect him to say something like that, especially knowing how much he cares and how much he wants to win and how much he wants to lead our group. So I expect nothing less.

Irving scored 16 points in Game 4 against the Timberwolves. - Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports/Reuters
Irving scored 16 points in Game 4 against the Timberwolves. - Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports/Reuters

“I think you heard me, too, just say that it’s on me. That’s what you’re supposed to hear from your leaders of your team.”

Dallas was playing without its rookie center Dereck Lively II, who was missing with a neck sprain, and Minnesota coach Chris Finch acknowledged afterwards the difference his absence made.

“Any time you’re missing one of your key players, certainly it’s going to change the dynamics of what they can do,” Finch said. “It gives them obviously less size and balance at the rim.”

Game 5 will be played in Minnesota on Thursday.

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