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NBA playoffs: Luka Dončić drops 32 and the game-winner as Mavericks take 2-0 lead

NBA playoffs: Luka Dončić drops 32 and the game-winner as Mavericks take 2-0 lead

The Dallas Mavericks have a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals, and they made it hurt for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

With Luka Dončić leading the way, the Mavericks took Game 2 in a 109-108 heartbreaker for the Timberwolves. Game 3 is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Sunday in Dallas (TNT).

Dončić had 32 points on 10-of-23 shooting, 13 assists, 10 rebounds and, of course, the game-winner. Down 108-106 with four seconds remaining, Dončić made a stepback 3-pointer over Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to take the air out of a Target Center that had once been enjoying an 18-point lead.

Luka Dončić did it all for the Mavericks. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Dončić made sure to let Gobert know what happened right after. In Slovenian, of course.

The Timberwolves had a chance to respond and even got the ball in the hands of Naz Reid, their hottest shooter of the night, but his would-be game-winner clanked out. Reid finished with a team-leading 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting (7-of-9 from 3-point range).

Minnesota was in control until early in the fourth quarter, when an 8-0 run erased the lead and left the two teams in a dogfight. The fourth quarter saw 11 different lead changes, with Dončić and Kyrie Irving exchanging haymakers with Reid and Anthony Edwards.

Irving made his first 3-pointer of the series in the fourth, then made three more the rest of the game. He could have been the goat due to three of four missed free throws in the same quarter, but made up for it with some incredible plays.

It was a brutal night for Minnesota, which thought it had a series-tying win in hand, then had to fight it out in the fourth quarter. It managed to eke out a five-point lead with a minute and a half remaining, but that was just the runway for Dončić to again take off.

And then, of course, there were the refs.

Less than a minute before Dončić made his shot, the Timberwolves had the ball up 108-106 with a chance to force Dallas into a foul-to-win situation. What happened next was a slow-motion disaster.

Jaden McDaniels caught an errant ball at the baseline, only for Irving to try to slap it out of his hands. Irving succeeded in dislodging the ball, but the officials called it off the Mavericks. Dallas head coach Jason Kidd challenged the call.

Replay showed Kidd had a point. The ball was clearly off McDaniels. However, it also showed that Irving clearly hacked McDaniels' forearm to the point that he didn't make contact with the ball at all. Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, the officials could only look at who last touched the ball. Whether a foul was committed was not reviewable because the officials did not call a foul on the play.

The officials gave the ball to the Mavericks with 47 seconds left. Dončić missed the ensuing 3-point attempt, but the turnover was a massive blow to Minnesota.

It was a classic situation where rules hamstrung a well-meaning challenge system. It's a compelling argument to slacken the rules this offseason, but that will be little consolation to the Timberwolves.

Target Center fans also had a sour taste in their mouths on what might have been the wildest play of the game, when Daniel Gafford blocked a Mike Conley 3-pointer, caught a full-court pass from Dončić and somehow made a lay-up with his body almost horizontal.

Subsequent replay showed Gafford got away with a clear push in the back of Conley.

It's always tricky to note this kind of stuff because there are always going to be calls officials miss, it's just that these calls are unavoidable when discussing how bad this night was for Minnesota. Especially when its top player is in a clear slump.

Few, if any, players have seen their profiles rise as much as Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards this season, but his past few playoff games are starting to take the shape of a major slump.

Since Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals, Edwards has shot 5-of-15, 8-of-17, 6-of-24, 6-of-16 and, now, 5-of-17. That adds up to a 33.7% field-goal percentage across five games.

Granted, the Timberwolves won two of those games, and Edwards has done plenty to add value on the court in other areas (he's averaging 7 assists per game in the same span), but you can't talk as much trash as he's done this playoffs and then turn into one of your team's offensive liabilities.

Figuring out how to jump-start Edwards will be one of Minnesota's top priorities for Game 3, though the bigger question will be how it cools down Dončić.

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