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The Timberwolves' previous two series in the playoffs featured more blowouts than they did close games, which meant the Wolves didn't have to confront one of their worst features throughout the season — late-game offense.

That bugaboo came back to bite them in a major way in their 108-105 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

The Wolves led 102-98 after an Anthony Edwards three-pointer with 3 minutes, 37 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, but they didn't score again until there were just 10.5 seconds to play.

In the interim, Dallas scored eight straight points to take a game in which neither team led by more than nine points.

“Guys looked tired in a sense that we weren't moving without the ball, we weren't setting screens, we weren't getting guys open.”
Mike Conley

"Terrible offense down the stretch," Wolves coach Chris Finch said. "Bad shots, turnovers, no composure. It was the same at the end of the first half. We haven't really closed quarters very well, closed halves very well over the last handful of games. It cost us a game in the Denver series. It certainly had an impact on this game tonight, too. We've got to be better in clutch moments."

After Edwards' three, he missed another one on the Wolves' next possession. Then Jaden McDaniels, who otherwise had a strong game with a team-high 24 points, drove into a crowd without much sense of where he was going with the ball and turned it over.

That led to a P.J. Washington three-pointer, which gave Dallas the lead for good at 104-102. Luka Doncic (33 points, 12-for-26) delivered a final blow with an elbow jumper, and Kyrie Irving (30 points, 12-for-23) iced the game with a pair of free throws.

"I think we just came out flat today," said Edwards, who had 19 points on 6-for-16 shooting from the field. "And then we found our energy and then we went back to being flat. I think it was on us. Everything was on us today."

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It didn't help the Wolves that an officiating call late didn't go their way, when Karl-Anthony Towns appeared to put back a Mike Conley miss to tie the score at 104 only for officials to rule the ball was still in the cylinder. They upheld the call on review.

But the overarching problem wasn't that singular play, it was everything else around it, as both Edwards and Conley decried the Wolves' lack of energy. Conley said that had a big effect on the late-game offense. The Wolves committed five of their 10 turnovers in the fourth quarter.

"Guys looked tired in a sense that we weren't moving without the ball, we weren't setting screens, we weren't getting guys open," Conley said. "We were holding on to the ball a lot. No matter what call we made or set we tried to get into, there was not a lot of energy put into it. And you can't effectively run anything without having that energy. We have to find that."

Edwards said the Wolves might have had a hangover effect from their Game 7 victory at Denver. He said at times he was "exhausted," especially on a play in which Irving beat him for a layup down the floor. Edwards also had a crushing turnover on a bad pass with seconds left in the fist half as the Wolves were holding for the final shot. Irving then converted a traditional three-point play to cut the Wolves' lead to 62-59 at the half.

"Y'all can see it, we was a step behind everybody, especially myself," Edwards said.

The Mavericks defense was packing the paint and the rim and making the Wolves take shots from the outside. The Wolves took 49 three-pointers, the most they have attempted in a game all season, and hit 18 of them (37%). Finch said he thought most of those were good looks and that the Wolves could have taken more. Edwards took 12 of his 16 field-goal tries from three-point range instead of attempting to attack the rim more against Dallas' defense.

"The big man, he's not super high up, like the last two series," Edwards said. "We didn't really know what to expect. I came off, and I was open a bunch of times and took the shots. I'll make 'em next time. Have to live with it."

BOXSCORE: Dallas 108, Wolves 105

The Wolves' other primary scorer, Towns, also could never get on track. Some of Edwards and Towns' teammates picked them up most of the night: McDaniels hit six threes, Kyle Anderson had a playoff-high 11 points, and Naz Reid scored 15. But down the stretch when Edwards and Towns were trying to get the Wolves going, nothing was working.

On defense, the Wolves looked a step slow in the first half reacting to Doncic and Irving, especially Irving, who had 24 points in the first half.

Their defense tightened up in the second half and held Dallas to 49 points, but at key times the Wolves broke down and allowed the Mavericks to score crucial buckets late. For instance, with the Wolves ahead 102-98, they forced a miss from Irving, but rookie Dereck Lively II got the rebound over Rudy Gobert. Lively kicked it out to Doncic for a three that made the score 102-101. The Mavericks outrebounded the Wolves 48-40, 11 of which came on the offensive end.

"I got to do a better job on the rebounds," said Gobert, who had 12 points and seven rebounds. "I can't let these guys just get offensive rebounds. I'll be better."

The Wolves all around have to be better if they're going to advance. They might have defeated the NBA defending champion Nuggets, but they learned Wednesday that didn't mean they can now breeze on through to the Finals.

"We haven't been tested like this where we've had to trade basket to basket, late-game free-throw situations or fouling situations, stuff that we have to be better at," Conley said. "But we'll learn from it. I think each game we've learned a lot about ourselves, a lot we can get better at."