Luka Doncic's Game-Winner Gives Dallas Mavericks 2-0 Series Lead Over Timberwolves

Luka Doncic delivered a game-winning 3-pointer that lifted the Dallas Mavericks over the Minnesota Timberwolves to take a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals.
May 24, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) controls the ball against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (3) in the second quarter during game two of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
May 24, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) controls the ball against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (3) in the second quarter during game two of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports / Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Coming off a Game 1 victory, the Dallas Mavericks achieved another victory at Target Center to begin the Western Conference finals with a 2-0 series lead. It came down to the final possession for the Mavs despite trailing by as many as 18 points, with Luka Doncic's game-winning step-back 3-pointer with Rudy Gobert on an island pushing them to a 109-108 win in Game 2.

“I just saw some space and decided to shoot a three," Doncic said of his game-winner. "At some point we were down 18 on the road, which is insane to come back from.”

May 24, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) controls the ball against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (3) in the second quarter during game two of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
May 24, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) controls the ball against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (3) in the second quarter during game two of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports / Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to the game-winning shot, Doncic recorded his fourth consecutive triple-double with 32 points, 13 assists, and 10 rebounds. He's averaged 28.0 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 9.3 assists in 14 playoff games despite various injuries, including ongoing right knee sprain and left ankle soreness.

“First to four. Nothing’s won,” Doncic said. “You’ve just got to think about next game — not in the future, just this game.”

Doncic's superstar backcourt partner, Kyrie Irving, added 20 points and six assists. Despite uncharacteristic struggles at the free throw line late in the game, he was instrumental in rallying Dallas back from a double-figure deficit. He scored 15 of his points and dished out four dimes after the break, trailing only Doncic in both categories during this span.

The center rotation combined to record 30 points and 14 rebounds, with Daniel Gafford accounting for 16 points, five rebounds, and five blocks. Dereck Lively II chipped in 14 points, nine rebounds, and two assists. With Lively being added using the 2023 NBA Draft and Gafford being acquired at this year's trade deadline, Dallas continues to reap the rewards from those recent changes.

“Good tandem,” Kidd said. “I thought Gaff was a lot better and D-Live is playing well. A young man who is a rookie playing late in the playoffs, the trust that his teammates have in him has shown. He’s going to be a special one as his journey continues. Our bigs were really good tonight.”

Naz Reid had a dynamic performance off the bench for Minnesota, recording 23 points with seven made 3-pointers. One of his two misses from deep was the potential game-winner. It was a needed boost, considering Anthony Edwards totaled an inefficient 21 points. However, Minnesota received double-figure scoring nights from Mike Conley (18 points), Rudy Gobert (16 points), and Karl-Anthony Towns (16 points).

"They just showing me crowds man, sitting in the gaps, but I’m turning down a lot of shots, you know?" Edwards said. "Like my midranges and stuff, I’m turning a lot of those down, but we’re getting open looks so I ain’t tripping.”

Minnesota featured Towns early in the post to attack the smaller matchup in P.J. Washington. While he initially shot 1-5 from the floor, he could draw fouls and had five early points. Minnesota pushed the pace after the Mavericks' turnovers, but began playing out of side ball screens with Mike Conley attacking Doncic trying to deny the use of the screen with ICE coverage by attacking space baseline.

It was a tightly contested game early, with the Timberwolves going up 21-17 midway through the first period after Derrick Jones Jr. was blocked in transition, leading to a catch and finish for Gobert. The early momentum continued to be in Minnesota's favor, with Dallas to turn positive plays into lengthy runs.

Reid heated up with a made 3-pointer to end the first quarter and begin the second. With Towns taking advantage of the mismatch against Washington, he extended Minnesota's advantage to double figures (11) for the first time in the game. Dallas responded by getting Lively to the free throw line, but Conley fired back with a 3-pointer to extend the Timberwolves' edge to 12.

Doncic responded by snaking a ball screen to get a step-back 3-pointer. However, Minnesota continued to answer back Dallas, with Towns being featured inside as the offense's focal point. He scored against Washington in the post, then found Reid in the corner to put the Timberwolves up by a 15-point margin, prompting the Mavericks to call a timeout. The lead grew as large as 17 in this part of the game.

Dallas began tightening up defensively but came up empty in opportune situations offensively, including Lively mishandling a catch on an open alley-oop. Minnesota held a 60-48 advantage entering the break, with double-figure scoring performances already from Edwards with 13 points while Conley and Reid each had 12 points. Towns and Gobert both added nine points and five rebounds at this point.

Doncic recorded 16 points, six rebounds, and five assists playing 21 of 24 first-half minutes but had difficulty getting to his spots in the first half. He shot 5-14 from the floor and 2-8 from inside the arc. He was the team's only double-figure scorer, with Lively's eight points being the closest. Dallas shot 18-46 (39.1%) overall and 4-14 (28.6%) from deep through two quarters.

“Amazing,” Doncic said of Lively. “He’s been amazing this season. These playoffs, he took not one, not two, three steps forward. He’s a rookie. I think people forget sometimes he’s doing this in the Western Conference finals, which is insane. His ceiling is going to be huge.”

Early in the second half, the Mavericks made it a six-point game after Doncic continued to guide the offense with his scoring and playmaking. A turnover prevented them from progressing after reaching that point, but Dallas stuck with it and eventually overtook the lead. Doncic was having an easier time attacking downhill than earlier in the game while hitting a 3-pointer.

Despite Doncic receiving heavy defensive attention and being the focus of aggressive coverages, he managed to solve the game in a sense. Irving, a fellow superstar who strikes fear into a defense in similar ways, acknowledged the value of finding that balance of attacking downhill despite those circumstances. Irving highlighted the value of involving teammates to open the game up.

"You know some of the greatest scorers to play this game, or greatest offensive threats, have been able to play that in-between game, have been able to make plays for others, and when they figure out how to make their teammates better, they become that much greater," Irving said of Doncic. "I feel like myself and Luka, we've figured that out, to a certain degree where we get the best out of our guys and they know how to feed us good energy."

"We get the best out of our guys and they know how to feed us good energy," Irving explained. "We know how to feed them good energy, and when the ball is hopping around or when guys are being aggressive and taking advantage of the first opportunity that they have and just making quick decisions, it does a lot for our team. Fluidity, just in how we play and our pace and when we're getting up and down the floor, we're a tough team to beat."

Doncic's perspective was straightforward, emphasizing a mindset to attack. "Just driving mentality," he said.

Without Doncic on the court, Jaden Hardy made impressive plays to pull the Mavericks within two points multiple times. The first was a 3-pointer followed by a closeout attack that led to a lob pass for Gafford. Irving also made a series of plays attacking downhill, but Minnesota closed the period with an 86-79 lead after Reid hit a quick trigger 3-pointer out of a Horns flare set.

Doncic returned to the court for the fourth quarter with Irving on the floor. Dallas used an 8-0 run to overtake an 87-86 advantage quickly, with Irving scoring or assisting on all these points. He used a pair of 3-pointers and assisted Washington during this stretch.

With the Mavericks focused on collapsing the paint when Edwards attacked downhill, Minnesota had a five-out offense out to begin the period. This helped create a spray-out pass that led to a 3-pointer for Reid to retake the lead. Irving responded with a deep make from beyond the arc of his own. The game was set up to be tight, with every possession being crucial.

Dallas continued to leave Reid open and was made to pay for doing so. His seventh 3-pointer put Minnesota ahead 94-92 with 6:36 remaining in regulation. The Mavericks struggled to find the proper balance between handling double-screener actions and Edwards collapsing in the paint while being able to get out on Reid, with many of his shots being wide open.

Gafford finished a series of paint touches, including a throw-ahead transition pass where he bodied Conley to secure the catch and threw up the scoop finish on his way to the ground. He described it as a "prayer shot" and credits God for it going through the net.

“I just threw it up there, in all honesty,” Gafford said. “That’s called a prayer shot, in my world. I just tried to make sure my eyes were on the basket and threw it up there and let the man upstairs handle it. He put it in the basket for me.”

Reid again responded by attacking off the catch for a dunk to tie it up again. Dallas became more focused on switching these actions down the stretch. Regardless, Minnesota made a series of clutch plays in the paint to maintain a three-point lead while Irving split a pair of free throws and turned it over trying to attack Edwards. Irving did manage to recover the ball before lobbing it to Lively for a dunk, but Conley made a floater on the other end. Dallas came within one point numerous times in this stint. Until the very end, it was just that type of game for the Mavericks.

Doncic emphasized the need to always have faith in being able to pull out a win: "Like I always say, stay together, positive energy. We believed until the end."

Dallas turned to Stack pick-and-roll for Doncic to find Lively behind Gobert for a catch and finish to pull ahead, but Conley responded with a made floater. Irving had a second-chance 3-point attempt to give the Mavericks momentum but missed after Jones' initial offline attempt. Edwards attacked the rack to get to the line and made both free throws, putting Minnesota up by three with under two minutes remaining on the game clock.

Irving used a double-drag action to get deep on a drive before using contact to draw a foul, but he missed both free throw attempts. Dallas then fouled Edwards while in the bonus as he was trying to pass, resulting in a five-point deficit after he made both. Irving hit a corner 3-pointer late in the shot clock to make it 108-106 with about a minute left.

"I don't want to get fined, but I was just like, 'Holy, my gosh, like, what the heck is going on, man?' A lot of emotions going through my head and there's a brief moment of disappointment," Irving said of his missed free throws. "The fans are going crazy. I think we got them free chicken, right? Something like that. So, the fans are going crazy, and rightfully so, they were cheering their butts off. When I missed it, I think I surprised a lot of people in the arena, but in those moments, I got to stay focused and be aware of just how big it means for how much it means to our team to make those, and I've been in that moment. But when you miss, you also have to take that accountability and be better."

Edwards drew two on a ball screen and passed it to McDaniels on the baseline, who immediately was trapped and turned it over after a successful challenge by the Mavericks. Dallas gained possession with 47.3 seconds to play while facing a two-point deficit. Doncic orchestrated a possession out of Horns that got Gobert switched onto him, but he missed a step-back in short-range. Edwards then turned it over after getting stuck near the nail, making a series of pivots.

“We’re just beating ourselves a lot of the times, making simple, mental errors,” Towns said. “Our defense that’s held us together all year, sometimes it just falters in the wrong times. If you mix that in with the offense that we’re just not producing right now, it’s tough.”

The Mavericks once again had possession with a chance to tie or take the lead. This time, 12.8 seconds were remaining in the fourth quarter. Doncic seized the moment by getting Gobert switched onto him again using a Miami action and breaking him down off the dribble to create what proved to be the game-winning shot. With Doncic attacking downhill with success earlier in the game, Gobert had to respect that threat, which was used to his advantage to create space for the jumper.

“Once we got Luka the ball we wanted to give him space and let him do what he does,” Kidd said. “With him attacking the paint over and over, Rudy has to honor that. The play was to get Luka the ball and let Luka do what Luka does in those moments. We talked about taking the two, because we were only down two. But when he got to dancing with Gobert, you could see that the step-back (three-pointer) was coming and the rest was history.”

Minnesota had a potential game-winning shot with Reid being left open on the final play, but he missed the shot at the buzzer. Doncic jokingly admitted he almost passed out when he saw how clean of a shot Reid, and thought the shot looked like it was going to fall.

"I almost passed out," Doncic said of Reid's final shot. "That was looking too good."

As the Timberwolves look to regroup to avoid falling 3-0 in the series, Minnesota remains confident in making the necessary defensive adjustments to contain Doncic and the Mavericks. M

"He makes a lot of great reads out of the pick-and-roll. We tried to show him different looks. He kept making the right reads," Edwards said of Doncic. "It’s all him. We’ve just got to figure him out. But we’ll figure it out.”

Looking ahead, the series will continue on Sunday when Game 3 is played at American Airlines Center for the first of two games.

Stick with MavericksGameday for more coverage of the Dallas Mavericks throughout the NBA Playoffs.

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Grant Afseth


Grant Afseth is a Dallas Mavericks reporter for and an NBA reporter for NBA Analysis Network. He previously covered the Indiana Pacers and NBA for CNHI's Kokomo Tribune and various NBA teams for USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Follow him on Twitter (@grantafseth), Facebook (@grantgafseth), and YouTube (@grantafseth). You can reach Grant at