Dallas Mavericks one win away from NBA Finals as they go up 3-0 on the Minnesota Timberwolves

Ben Morse, CNN | 5/27/2024, 2:18 p.m.
The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday, 116-107, to move …
Irving (right) scored 14 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter against the Timberwolves. Mandatory Credit: Julio Cortez/AP via CNN Newsource

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday, 116-107, to move to 3-0 in the series and knock on the door of their first NBA Finals appearance in 13 years.

Dallas’ superstar guard tandem of Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving both scored 33 points on 50% or better shooting against Minnesota in front of a raucous American Airlines Center in north Texas.

The Mavs’ 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series is historically significant as no NBA team has ever overcome that deficit in a playoff series, with the teams holding the lead going 154-0.

“It means absolutely nothing right now,” Irving said when asked about the 154-0 stat. “Going into Game 4, it’s still 0-0. And that’s the type of mentality we have in that locker room.”

According to ESPN, the Mavericks are the first team to take a 3-0 series lead despite trailing in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter in each game during the play-by-play era, which began in 1997-98.

Irving came up big late for Dallas, scoring 14 of his points in the fourth quarter, to hold off a Minnesota squad which held a lead with 5:05 left in the game. As a duo, Dončić and Irving scored or assisted 26 of the Mavericks’ 29 fourth quarter points.

Dončić called Irving’s late-game performance “unbelievable.”

“That’s why some people call him Mr. Fourth Quarter, right?” Dončić told reporters. “It’s amazing. He’s born for the clutch situations, so we just give the ball to him. It’s just a blessing to have him on our team.”

Dončić and Irving became the first starting backcourt to each score at least 30 points in three games during a playoff run over the past 50 seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

“I feel like we’re both born for this. I felt like in that fourth quarter, we had a good run going. We got stops in the fourth quarter and we decided to push and get some easy ones,” Irving said of he and Dončić’s skillset.

“And down the stretch, that’s where we make our money, man. Since the All-Star break, we’ve been up there with some of the top teams in the league finishing clutch games. We have a great clutch record. I think we have that poise now and teams have to guard the depth we have.”

The only blight on a positive evening for the Mavs was when rookie center Dereck Lively II left the game in the second quarter after getting kneed in the back of the head. He was ruled out with a neck sprain and will be re-evaluated before Game 4, according to the team.

Anthony Edwards led the way for the Timberwolves with 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, but the team’s No. 1-ranked defense couldn’t find enough stops to slow down Dallas as it mounted its late comeback for a third-straight victory in the series.

The win came with a star-studded audience sitting courtside. Kansas City Chiefs stars Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and newly-acquired wide receiver Marquise Brown were in attendance. The Mavericks’ social media account playfully referred to Kelce as “Taylor Swift’s boyfriend,” a reference to his relationship with the superstar musician.

Game 4 will be played on Tuesday in Dallas where the Mavericks have the opportunity to clinch a spot in the NBA Finals for the third time in their history.