After dropping the first two games of the Western Conference Finals at home, the Minnesota Timberwolves needed a road win in Game 3. The Dallas Mavericks and their raucous crowd sought out to take a massive 3-0 series lead. A big story for the Timberwolves coming into the game was the performance of both Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Edwards rose to the occasion on Sunday night. The Wolves' star guard finally showed up in the series after a ferocious third quarter dunk revitalized his offensive attack. Not only did Ant get going, but the Timberwolves managed to regain the lead for the first time since the first few minutes of the game. KAT, on the other hand, once again failed to capitalize on his opportunities.

Towns shot a total of eight triples in Game 3, but missed every single attempt. The self-proclaimed “greatest shooting big man of all-time” struggled in front of Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki as Dallas once again stymied Minnesota's talented seven-footer. On the series, Towns has shot 37.5% (12/32) on two's and 13.6% (3/22) on three's.

In contrasting fashion, the Mavericks' stars have been anything but quiet. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving have uplifted a supporting cast reliant on their continued greatness. In Game 3, Doncic and Irving both exploded for a game-high 33 points. The high-powered backcourt continues to rip out the hearts of the Timberwolves with their excellence.

Having said that, let's dive into the performances this series by Luka and Kyrie and how the Wolves have failed to slow them down.

The Mavericks' dynamic duo is doing ALL the heavy lifting

Unlike the Timberwolves' star offensive duo, Dallas' big two has been the definition of reliable. In the first three games, Doncic has scored 33 points, 32 points and then 33 points again. Not only has Luka been extremely consistent, he’s come up clutch each night.

In Game 1, Luka pushed Dallas ahead with a fourth quarter 7-0 run individually. In Game 2, Doncic carried the Mavs back from an 18-point deficit before ultimately drilling the game-winner in the Defensive Player of the Year's face. Then in Game 3, the NBA's scoring champ once again put Dallas in advantage every single possession. His scoring gravity and playmaking feel allowed the ancillary pieces like Daniel Gafford, Dereck Lively II and Derrick Jones Jr. to eat in with lob dunks and open looks.

Irving has been calm, cool and collected all series. In the minutes that Doncic is out of the game, he has effectively ran the offense and gotten his own looks. With Luka on the court, he has picked his spots by being shot-ready off the catch. The duo is putting up historic numbers this series. The Mavericks' starting backcourt has combined for 181 points so far this series. That total accounts for 54.35% of the team’s 333 points through three games.

Issues with the Timberwolves' defense

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots against Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) in the fourth quarter during game one of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center.
Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks' success does not simply boil down to the offensive talent of Doncic and Irving. The Timberwolves' failure to properly defend Dallas’ pick and roll is at the heart of Minnesota’s disappointing series showing. Historically, Chris Finch had found more success in slowing down Luka Doncic than any other coach in the association. However, in Games 1 and 2, Finch went away from what's worked historically.

The Timberwolves' “high-wall” was nowhere to be seen to start the series. As a result, Doncic found his rhythm early. Minnesota's drop coverage and inability to contain Luka at the mesh point of the screen made him an impossible cover, essentially leaving Jaden McDaniels out to dry. Then, late in Game 2, the Wolves' coaching staff tried to switch ball screens to throw Dallas for a loop. Instead, Minnesota watched their 7-foot-1 center get beat in isolation with the world’s best perimeter player with the game on the line.

Finally, in Game 3, Minnesota went to their high-wall for stretches, however, not with the personnel they should have. In the past, the Wolves relied on Towns as to defend at the level of the screen when blitzing. In Game 3, Finch elected to leave Gobert on Dallas' bigs which ultimately brings him up to the level of the screen. As a result, the Wolves are now reliant on Towns to be a helper and to guard in rotations.

Unsurprisingly, Dallas' first made basket of the game came from a mix up by Towns on the backside. With Edwards in the middle of the paint, Ant-Man is well set up to tag the roll man as Gobert and McDaniels pressure Doncic at the level of the screen. Inexplicably, KAT leaves the strong-side corner wide open as he darts into the paint. The result is a wide-open shot for PJ Washington, who played much better in front of Dallas’ home crowd.

The Timberwolves' backs are now up against a wall. NBA teams are 0-154 all-time when going down 3-0 in a playoff series. While anything is possible, it’s clear Minnesota now has an uphill battle ahead of them. The margin for error is now zero. There is no room for mistakes. The Wolves’ coaching staff needs to make fixes the game plan now and the players need to execute it if they have any hope of turning this Western Conference Finals around.