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As they hit the floor up two with 12.8 seconds remaining, the Timberwolves' plan to defend Luka Doncic involved switching an inevitable ball screen Doncic would call to match up Rudy Gobert one-on-one with him.

Instead of doubling Doncic and forcing the ball out of his hands, the Wolves trusted Gobert, as they have all season.

They have built a defense that has defied the expectations of the league, that Gobert can defend on the perimeter when needed, even in a playoff series when teams might hunt him. They have succeeded all season, and they were going to trust Gobert again Friday night, even when staring down one of the most lethal scorers in the NBA.

Minnesota will remember what happened next for years to come.

In the most crucial moment of this series, Gobert said he "let my team down" in allowing Doncic space to hit a stepback three-pointer with 3.1 seconds left that proved to be the difference in a 109-108 Mavericks victory at Target Center on Friday night that put them ahead 2-0 in the Western Conference finals.

"They believed in me to get a stop and he scored," Gobert said. "And he scored a three, which is something that he does very well. So, I'm definitely taking that responsibility that I need to be better in that situation."

A Naz Reid three-point attempt at the buzzer off a pass from Anthony Edwards could have saved the Wolves, but Reid's shot hit the back of the rim and rattled out, ending the game.

"I thought it was good," Reid said. "I shot it with confidence. Ant trust me to get that shot up and to make that. I thought it was good. It went in and out. I guess it is how the game goes."

Two shots that could end up shaping the direction of two franchises, especially if the Mavericks go on to win the series. Game 3 is Sunday night in Dallas, where the Wolves will have to win at least one game if they want to bring the series back to Target Center.

Doncic, who had a triple-double with 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds, was able to use his stepback move to get plenty of room to fire away on Gobert. It seemed Gobert wasn't operating according to the game plan the Wolves had set when they broke a timeout huddle. Coach Chris Finch said the plan was to force Doncic inside the three-point line and at least make him take a two-point shot, which would have only tied the score.

"The idea was switch up, press him inside the three-point line," Finch said.

Gobert said that's what he would have done differently.

"That probably would have been a better option," Gobert said. "You know, just get a stop. Just get a stop. Be better."

Perhaps the Wolves' plan should not have been to leave Doncic one-on-one with anybody, even if they were going to funnel him inside the arc.

After the game, Gobert fell on the sword for the loss. But some of his teammates should have been racing to join him there.

Video (03:46) Coach Chris Finch, Naz Reid, Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert spoke to the press after Friday night's loss to the Mavericks.

The Wolves likely win Game 2 if either of the team's two best offensive players had even an average game, but both Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns struggled for the second night in a row.

Edwards hasn't looked like himself in this series, and when he threw the ball out of bounds with a chance to ice the game on the possession preceding Doncic's winner, it was the capstone of a baffling night.

"He's gotta get more in transition, gotta get out," Finch said. "I thought he started the game with a great burst, he was really going downhill well and then kinda just phased out as the game went along."

Finch also took blame for not calling a timeout on that possession to get Mike Conley back in the game after the Wolves forced a Doncic miss with 32.5 seconds left.

Edwards finished with 21 points but on 5-for-17 shooting. He was 9-for-10 at the free-throw line, but he again struggled in clutch moments.

"You can't control makes and misses in a game," Edwards said. "So I'm not really stressing about me getting going offensively. Just keep making the right play and hopefully we come out with a win."

Towns sat most of the final stretch of the game in favor of Reid, who was one of the only Wolves playing well offensively in addition to Conley, who had 18 points and five assists. Reid had 23 points, making seven of nine three-pointers, and his performance almost made up for the off night Towns had in going 4-for-16 for 15 points. Towns said he was OK with Finch's decision to ride with Reid down the stretch.

"I'm with winning, so whatever it takes to win," Towns said. "Naz has it going. Coach's decision, I'm fully supportive of my coaching staff. Wouldn't question them one bit. Of course I'm always going to be ready to play whenever he calls. Naz got it going, our team was playing well. Late in the game, we're winning. You can't ask for a better situation. We had a great player who hit a great shot and that's just what it is."

BOXSCORE: Dallas 109, Timberwolves 108

The Wolves also didn't get help from the officiating in a crucial situation, when Dallas challenged an out-of-bounds call that awarded the ball to Minnesota with 47 seconds left and the Wolves ahead 108-106. On review the ball last touched Jaden McDaniels, but it was also clear Kyrie Irving made contact with McDaniels and that forced the ball to go out. Crew chief Zach Zarba said upon postgame review that Irving had in fact fouled McDaniels, but officials could not rule on that in the moment because the challenge was only for possession of the ball, and non-call fouls are also ineligible to review.

"During the game we felt it was a normal out-of-bounds play and that's what was ruled," Zarba said. "Obviously, it gets challenged and the replay center overturns it because it last touched McDaniels. Postgame review we did see illegal contact from Irving to the forearm of McDaniels that should have been called a foul."

Next on the Wolves' list of problems on Friday was their second-half defense, which allowed Dallas to shoot 60.5% after halftime after the Mavs had trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half. Irving bounced back from a subpar first half to score 20 while the Dallas center tandem of Daniel Gafford (16 points) and Dereck Lively (14 points) combined to go 14-for-16. Gafford also had five blocks.

"It's frustration," Conley said. "Because we feel both of these games were very winnable. A play or two late in games, couple things go our way, the series could be looking a lot different right now."

Instead, the Wolves have to do what the Nuggets did to them in the previous round, flip a series when all the positive momentum is on the other side, and do it in the opposition's building. Maybe it's good for the Wolves that they are headed on the road, because they are 5-1 there this postseason and 3-4 at home.

"We haven't put a complete game together yet," Conley said. "When we do play our best we are a tough team to beat. We just have to figure out how to do that."