The Minnesota Timberwolves, coming off a huge series win to dethrone the reigning champion Denver Nuggets, were favored to advance to the NBA Finals. Alas, their matchup in the Western Conference Finals, the Dallas Mavericks, isn't a slouch by any means. With Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving around to lead the way, the Mavericks were going to pose a plethora of other problems for the Timberwolves than the one they faced against the Nuggets.

In Game 1, the Timberwolves, despite putting up a fight, came up short; the Mavericks simply looked like they had more gas at the end as they took a 108-105 win to go out in front to start the series. The Timberwolves, of all teams, would know that there is no reason to panic after a little setback like this. They were resilient against the Nuggets as they were able to come back from a 3-2 series deficit and a 20-point Nuggets lead in Game 7, so there will be no reason to fret.

But the Timberwolves know better than to let homecourt advantage slip away. They might have gotten away with two losses in their home floor during the Nuggets series, but they will not want to tempt fate against a Mavericks team that seems to be getting more locked in with each passing playoff game.

Moving forward, the Timberwolves have to clean up their games. In particular, their stars will have to play better.

Anthony Edwards runs out of gas in Game 1

Anthony Edwards was feeling himself at the end of the Timberwolves' rousing Game 7 comeback victory over the Nuggets, and deservedly so. Edwards was waving goodbye to the Ball Arena faithful, exchanging words with Nuggets fans at courtside, and he also called out Kyrie Irving prior to the start of the series, saying that he'll be the one guarding the Mavericks star.

Edwards, however, wasn't exactly at his best in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The Timberwolves star certainly had his moments. In the second quarter, the Timberwolves seized the momentum thanks in large part to his efforts. He came up with the offensive rebound off a missed free throw, drew two freebies of his own, and he punctuated the first half with a long three-pointer from 28 feet out to send Target Center into a frenzy.

And even though Edwards wasn't making too many buckets, he was still doing whatever he could to help his team win. He was hauling in plenty of rebounds, and he was keeping the ball moving. In the end, he finished with 11 rebounds and eight assists on the night, flexing his all-around game.

However, the Timberwolves, in the dying embers of Game 1, needed Anthony Edwards to be more assertive in getting his points. But as TNT color commentator Reggie Miller pointed out, Edwards seemed to have run out of gas. Edwards was the man who was guarding Kyrie Irving at the end, and he was even matched up against Luka Doncic on some possessions.

All the chasing around the perimeter seemed to have taken a toll on Edwards; when he was parked off the ball, he was holding onto his shorts and there seemed to be a lack of the usual pep in his step. The Timberwolves star still made a crucial three to put them up by four, 102-98, with 3:37 left, and he also made an earlier triple to cut the Mavericks' lead to five. That's how great he is. But in the fourth, he did not get to the rim — a telltale sign of exhaustion.

The Mavericks had one more day of rest than the Timberwolves did, so perhaps the stamina deficit played a part in Anthony Edwards' lackluster scoring night, which he ended with 19 points on 6-16 shooting. But superstars who call themselves the best player in the game cannot make any excuses for themselves. The responsibility to lead the team falls on their shoulders after all. Edwards will have to play better, but knowing his approach to the game, he'll for sure bring it in Game 2 on Friday.

Karl-Anthony Towns was unfortunate down the stretch

Karl-Anthony Towns, much like Anthony Edwards, hit a few key shots for the Timberwolves in the fourth quarter, including a go-ahead triple to put them up by one, 99-98, with 4:39 remaining in the game. But similar to Edwards, one couldn't help but feel as though Towns settled for far too many looks from the perimeter instead of being more aggressive towards the basket.

Towns has a size advantage over his primary defender PJ Washington, and as he has shown in the Nuggets series, he is not afraid to get down and dirty as he makes his way towards the hoop. But in Game 1, Towns fell in love with the jumpshot way too often. While he didn't settle to the degree that Edwards did (Edwards only had two shot attempts in the paint all night long compared to eight from Towns), he was more than happy to let it fly from deep in the dying seconds. Alas, his shot wasn't on point, as he went 2-9 from deep on the night.

Overall, Karl-Anthony Towns shot 6-20 from the field; now, there was some misfortune at work, as Towns saw his electric putback with less than two minutes remaining on the clock be waved off after the officials deemed that the ball was still along the cylinder. Perhaps there were times when Towns should have gone to the foul line as it looked like the Mavericks were getting away with plenty of contact in the paint. But at the end of the day, Towns has to shoot better than 30 percent from the field, especially when he's a 7-footer.

Timberwolves need to win the rebounding battle

On paper, it looked like the Timberwolves were well-equipped to prevent the Mavericks from running roughshod on the offensive glass the way they did against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers during the previous two rounds. The Timberwolves have Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Naz Reid to patrol the boards, while Anthony Edwards is no slouch on the glass either.

However, the Mavericks still won the rebound battle, 48-40, with Dallas grabbing one more offensive rebound than Minnesota did. Credit goes to Dereck Lively II and Daniel Gafford for their tireless effort on the boards, but the Timberwolves have to be better at keeping them off the glass. It's inexcusable that Edwards, of all people, ended up leading the team in rebounds when the team has three quality big men, two of which are always on the court.

A defensive stand does not become a stop until you retrieve the basketball. The Timberwolves know this. Expect them to put up a much more concerted effort to win the battle of the boards come Friday night.

Timberwolves' guard play goes AWOL

Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker have done a great job throughout the playoffs in their respective roles at the point guard position. Conley is an underrated offensive orchestrator, while Alexander-Walker is proving his worth as a defense-first guard with a penchant for hitting big threes. However, both struggled in the Timberwolves' Game 1 loss to the Mavericks.

Conley went just 2-7 from the field, including 1-6 from deep, to finish with just six points. To make matters worse, Conley, after drawing a foul on a three-point attempt in the dying seconds of the game while down four to the Mavericks, missed his second free throw. This required the Timberwolves to pull a rabbit out of their hat — Conley had to miss a free throw, hope it bounces to either Karl-Anthony Towns or Rudy Gobert, and then kick it out to a well-defended shooter, and hope he makes it — all so the game could be sent to overtime. Alas, the Mavericks corralled the rebound and sealed the deal.

Meanwhile, Alexander-Walker was simply off the mark. He went 1-6 and missed all four of his attempts from three. The Timberwolves got eight total points from their point guards, which, to say the least, is less than ideal, especially amid an off night from both Anthony Edwards and Towns.