Mavericks vs Timberwolves Western Conference Finals Preview: Twin Cities Stand Tall

The NBA's Western Conference Finals get underway on Wednesday and our NBA expert has put aside his fandom to offer up a very opinionated preview of Dallas vs. Minnesota. Read on to find out which franchise will punch their ticket to the NBA Finals.

Douglas Farmer - Betting Analyst at Covers
Douglas Farmer • Betting Analyst
May 21, 2024 • 17:29 ET • 4 min read
Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves NBA
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Unlike the last round of the NBA Playoffs, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks are not intimately familiar with each other.

They have not clashed in terribly notable moments, and do not bring lingering history into this Western Conference Final. Of course, that should all change quickly.

As we venture to break down this series, the NBA playoff series odds are splitting hairs but my NBA pick for this intriguing WCF is one filled with value. 

Dallas Mavericks vs Minnesota Timberwolves series odds

To win series

  • Dallas Mavericks (+142)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (-168)

Series spread

  • Dallas Mavericks +1.5 (-150)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves -1.5 (+122)

All odds courtesy of FanDuel on 5/21

Mavericks vs Timberwolves series preview

After the Minnesota Timberwolves dispatched Nikola Jokic by throwing big after big at him, some focus will be spent discussing Minnesota’s edge on the inside in this series. In this series, however, that edge will show up most offensively, no matter how well Dereck Lively II and Daniel Gafford played against the Thunder.

That should be where the Timberwolves focus their offense, finally able to give Karl-Anthony Towns a chance to shine more on offense than on defense after being the primary defender of Kevin Durant and Nikola Jokic in back-to-back series. Perhaps this will be the first time this postseason that Naz Reid provides his usual offensive spark on a consistent basis.

And no matter Gafford’s explosiveness, the Dallas Mavericks will struggle to defend Rudy Gobert on his rolls to the rim after setting screens for Mike Conley and Anthony Edwards.

This is where Minnesota will represent an entirely different challenge than Oklahoma City did. The Thunder lack any genuine size or power on the inside. Chet Holmgren may become that player someday, but he is very much not one these days.

The fifth-year veteran Gafford and the rookie Lively have never faced a front line like this. Dallas may hope to prevent entering the ball into Towns, but two realities will deflate that defensive approach. First of all, Conley is savvy enough to make sure Towns gets the ball in the post on occasion.

Secondly and more notably, Minnesota rarely needs to specifically enter the ball to involve its big men. KAT is such a threat from deep that defenders have to stick close to him all the way to the arc. That leaves them vulnerable to him opting to establish position instead.

Reid operates best with the ball on the perimeter, rarely finding positioning in the post. He also demands tight defense well past the arc, and he prefers to counter that pursuit with an explosive drive down the lane.

Gobert’s post presence is best utilized on pick-and-rolls, something Conley excels at and many Wolves have improved at.

The three rarely play together, but any combination of the two of them will present Dallas defensive matchup troubles.

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Meanwhile, the Mavericks’ offense runs through two players that can go by one name apiece. Luka and Kyrie.

Before delving into a particular play from more than a year ago that should inform why Minnesota deserves more credit in this series, let’s outright acknowledge: Kyrie Irving can win any night single-handedly, though his game is not one that has ever lent itself to an entire series of domination. Luka Doncic, however, could win this series entirely on his own.

Doncic being hampered by injury, though, lessens that likelihood. And this defense, in particular, will make the Slovenian superstar work far more than any other defense in the NBA could.

Edwards and Jaden McDaniels are both strong enough to withstand Doncic’s physical style of offense. Edwards has already said he expects to primarily guard Irving, but the two will have the ability to switch assignments without amplifying consternation.

Then add in Nickeil Alexander-Walker as an assurance that at least two of the Timberwolves’ three strong wing defenders will be on the court with Luka and Kyrie at all times. Alexander-Walker may be a more technically sound but less athletic defender than either Edwards or McDaniels, but he is still quick enough and relentless enough to aggravate opponents all the same.

Edwards and McDaniels have beaten this assignment before.

Quite memorably, Minnesota led by three in Dallas in the closing seconds in February of 2023. Wolves head coach Chris Finch asked his huddle if it wanted to foul, force the Mavericks to shoot two free throws while trailing by three. Edwards dismissed the thought.

“They got two iso players, we got two iso defenders,” Edwards said afterward. “So, I mean, however they want to do it, let’s do it.”

That was before Alexander-Walker emerged last postseason as an equal defensively, becoming the third piece of this constant perimeter defense.

With 14.8 seconds left, the inbound was sent toward Doncic. McDaniels knocked it back down the court, valuable seconds ticking off the clock. Doncic struggled to quickly get back up court, so he passed to Irving. He tried to drive on Edwards, but could not get an angle and both Edwards and McDaniels denied an open 3. Back to Luka. No room whatsoever. Kyrie pumped on a 3, closed off by Ant. He gave it up, a turnover, and the Wolves won.

Most possessions will not be that high-stakes, but the fact that two excellent playmakers could not get so much as a shot off with the game on the line should emphasize the problem they now face.

Irving had been scorching hot, scoring 26 fourth-quarter points to help erase a 26-point second-half deficit. And still, those younger-then-now Timberwolves cut him off when it mattered most.

Mavericks vs Timberwolves Prediction

Luka and Kyrie have too long of track records to think this series will be easy for Minnesota, no matter how well the Timberwolves just played to get by the defending champions.

That said, Minnesota has shown too much this season — too much depth, too much scoring, and certainly too much defense — to think it will fall to an inferior opponent.

The Wolves’ hangover from Sunday night’s dramatic win could put the Mavericks in position to steal a Game 1 win. That thought is baked into what will be this best bet.

More a consideration is that the correct series scores show value in betting on Minnesota to win the series on the road. FanDuel posts Timberwolves 4-3 at +400 and 4-1 at +360, both more likely than 4-2 at +500. Think about that for a moment. Suggesting it is more probable Minnesota wins in five games than in six, and notably more likely given those odds, boggles the mind a touch, doesn’t it?

It is solely because the Timberwolves would be on the road in Game 6. Well, Minnesota just went on the road and won a Game 7 in Denver. It can close a series on the road.

Dallas may steal Game 1, and then either Luka or Kyrie just may find another win. Combining that thought with the value presented in those 4-2 odds makes one bet a clear choice in this series.

My best bet: Timberwolves 4-2 (+500 at FanDuel)

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