In the Western Conference Finals the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks clash with a berth in the NBA Finals on the line. Keep reading for a preview and prediction for this series. And make sure you check out our NBA Playoffs Betting Guide, which will serve as the hub for all of our postseason betting content!

Mavericks vs. Timberwolves Series Preview

For the second time in three years Luka Doncic is in the Western Conference Finals. 

 

This time, he must topple the best defense in the NBA in order to make it to the NBA Finals for the first time in his career.

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Minnesota is in the conference finals for just the second time in franchise history, and the first time since 2004. A win would mean the first berth in the NBA Finals for the franchise which came to the league 1989.

As it stands right now, the betting market believes it will be Anthony Edwards and the Timberwolves representing the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

When Minnesota ousted Denver on Sunday night the first series prices to appear on the market had the Timberwolves as -150 favorites to win the series over the Mavericks. In just over 30 minutes that price was as high as -190 at multiple shops. Buyback took place on Dallas at +160 and the market has seemingly settled at -170 on Minnesota.

It isn’t surprising to see the market rally around the Timberwolves. They ousted the defending champion, and they are a team that can seemingly match up well with the Mavericks.

Dallas is a team that is built around its star Luka Doncic operating in isolation on offense. In the regular season, the Mavericks were 7th in isolation frequency (10.5%) and tied for first in point per possession in isolation possessions (1.05). Doncic was fifth in individual isolation frequency (23.3%) and Dallas averaged 1.09 points per possession on his isos. Kyrie Irving was sixth in frequency (19.9%) and the Mavericks put up 1.08 points per possession on those plays.

It’s no secret that both will be looking to hunt mismatches, as it is what they are known for. It has them in the Western Conference Finals. The problem is that the Timberwolves might be the antidote to that poison.

Minnesota is loaded with elite individual defenders. It is why the Timberwolves allowed the second-fewest points per possession in isolation (0.86) in the regular season. Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels are elite wing defenders with size. Mike Conley is smaller, but is smart in how he defends. Doncic and Irving can try to target either Karl-Anthony Towns or Rudy Gobert, but their size and length make it difficult to shoot over them, even in isolation situations. 

Oklahoma City – the team which finished first in isolation defense at 0.84 points per possession allowed – did a tremendous job against both Doncic and Irving. The two Mavericks stars will have their work cut out for them here.

It also means that the Dallas role players will need to step up once again.

P.J. Washington averaged 17.7 points and 8.3 rebounds on 46.9% shooting from 3-point range. Derrick Jones Jr. put up 12.8 points and 3.2 rebounds on 37.0% 3-point shooting. Dereck Lively led the team in plus-minus for the series with a massive +71 in six games.

If Doncic and Irving struggle once again, can they rely on their supporting cast to have similar series once more?

Minnesota is hardly perfect. In the three losses to Denver it averaged only 106.1 points per 100 possessions, and it had a -17.6 net rating. The Timberwolves’ offense can be streaky to put it mildly, and the Mavericks’ defensive turnaround in the last 32 games is real.

Dallas has held its postseason opponents to 110.6 points per 100 possessions. It has allowed opponents to take just 30.0% of attempts at the rim, and they have allowed just 57.3% on those shots.

Minnesota is a team that likes to attack the paint. It has attempted the second-highest frequency of rim shots in the postseason (37.6%), but it is shooting just 63.6% in the restricted area. Dallas will challenge that facet of their offense.

That being said, it is hard to turn away from the Timberwolves now.

Minnesota has the wing defenders to put on Doncic and Irving. Their ability to guard in one-on-one situations will allow other defenders to stay at home and challenge lesser shooters like Washington and Jones. They are – once again – the deeper team as well.

The betting market rushed to back the favorite on Sunday night, and I would be in agreement with that initial move. I would also say the probability of the Timberwolves winning this series is higher than -170 would imply. A straight up series price bet has value in it, as do the other derivative markets tied to the series.

Recommendations: Timberwolves to win series (-170) | Timberwolves -1.5 games (+130)