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What went wrong for the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 1 loss to Dallas Mavericks

ANT quote hidden in Minnesota governor's "Wolves Back Day" proclamation
ANT quote hidden in Minnesota governor's "Wolves Back Day" proclamation 00:26

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves suffered a disappointing loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals Wednesday night.

The Wolves led for much of the first half, but allowed the Mavericks to get the lead late and couldn't steal it back. Still, many of the issues that contributed to the loss are easily identifiable and — hopefully — fixable.

Here's what went wrong for the Wolves in Game 1.

Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic

The Wolves did a great job limiting Dallas' bench — Naz Reid's 15 points were more than all of the Mavs' reserves combined — but the superstar duo of Doncic and Irving overpowered them. The two combined for 63 of Dallas' 108 points. Irving was quick and elusive all night and Doncic hit some impressive contested shots. The Wolves will need to find a way going forward to limit the pair's effectiveness without sacrificing their strong defense against ancillary players.

Roster management

There were some baffling lineup decisions by Micah Nori and Chris Finch Wednesday night. Perhaps they're prepping for another long series, but the Wolves had only one starter (Anthony Edwards) surpass 40 minutes. The Mavericks had three. Karl-Anthony Towns played just 34:23 and Mike Conley only 30:48. 

The Wolves are coming off a taxing seven-game series against the defending champs, so perhaps the coaching staff was trying to preserve players' energy — Edwards did look exhausted by the end of the game, and admitted he was gassed in a postgame interview. But the Mavs are coming off their own six-game series and managed to keep their starters on the floor more.

Going forward, the Wolves are going to need more minutes from their starters, particularly if the games are as close as Wednesday's was.

Free throws

The Wolves shot just 61.1% from the stripe, well below their season average of 77.7%. They should see some improvement in this area as the series goes on. 

In a three-point loss, the Wolves missed seven free throws — including a crucial one by Conley late, which put the Wolves in the dire situation of needing a three-pointer to force overtime. Conley, a 91.1% free throw shooter on the season, was 1/4 from the line, though one of the misses was intentional.

The Mavericks, meanwhile, went 16/17 from the line. That's a disparity that can't continue if the Wolves hope to win the series.

What went right

Despite the dour mood from the team and fans after the Game 1 loss, it wasn't all bad. The Wolves led for much of the game and easily could have won it if a couple of bounces had gone their way.

The Wolves did a great job of staying out of foul trouble (which, frankly, makes the minutes management issues even more confusing). Jaden McDaniels led the team with four, Rudy Gobert had three and Towns had only two. 

Minnesota's offensive performance was basically the inverse of Dallas' — while Edwards and Towns were held to just 35 combined points, they had four other players in double digits and got 28 points from the bench. McDaniels hit 6/9 threes and finished with 24 points. If the Wolves' stars can step up offensively next game, they'll be in great shape.

Game 2 is Friday night. The Wolves have a lot to fix before then, but there's also a lot of encouraging stuff to take away, too, and the series is far from over.

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