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Luka Doncic and Dallas Mavericks promise better ‘energy’ in Game 5 against Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS – The Dallas Mavericks had a chance to close out the Minnesota Timberwolves and advance to the NBA Finals, but fell short in a 105-100 Game 4 loss. The team still holds a 3-1 series lead entering Thursday’s Game 5 match at Target Center.

After the match, Doncic described his performance as not having enough energy, with the need for better results from himself and the team in Game 5.

“It’s fine, I think that’s a game for me. I just didn’t give enough energy,” said Doncic, who finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 4. “So we have to do better. They won one game. We just have to focus on the next one.”

May 28, 2024;  Dallas, Texas, USA;  Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) speaks with Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) during the fourth quarter of game four of the Western Conference finals for the 2024 NBA Playoffs at the American Airlines Center.  Mandatory credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

May 28, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) speaks with Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) during the fourth quarter of game four of the Western Conference finals for the 2024 NBA Playoffs at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After 33-point performances from Doncic and Kyrie Irving in Game 4, they faced greater challenges in executing to their usual standard. While Jaden McDaniels started as the primary defender guarding him, Irving was limited to 16 points on 6-18 (33.3%) shooting overall and was 1-6 (16.7%) from deep with as many turnovers as assists, with that number being four. Meanwhile, Anthony Edwards started on Doncic.

“I mean, we’re in the NBA, man. No team is just going to lie down and give me and Luka open shots. I think just looking at the quality of our shots, I think a few of them could be better,” Irving said. “A few of them were rushed. A few of them walked in and out. Especially when the game is on the line, I think of all the plays where it could have gone either way.

“But yeah, it just takes a high level of focus and also just understanding that we have to make the plays that work and continue to pick guys that we want to see guard and just continue to give each other confidence and to continue to feed our teammates,” Irving explained. “Good things happen when we consistently get to the next play, and I think that’s what we did.”

Daniel Gafford admitted his energy was also low and emphasized how he needs to be ready to play to succeed against a tough opponent like the Timberwolves, especially in a postseason setting.

“It might have been 50/50, I would say. I can’t speak for everyone. I’m sure I wasn’t ready to play at all. My energy was low, and I just had to dig deep and get some kind of energy out to be ready to go play basketball at the end of the day. It’s not going to be easy for those guys. They came out tonight and punched us in the mouth and we had to adapt to it.

A major factor going against the Mavericks was Dereck Lively II being sidelined due to a neck sprain. With Lively questionable to play Game 5, it remains to be seen if they will have him available in their next closeout game. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 20 of his 25 points after halftime in Game 4, while Edwards remained aggressive with less protection. Mike Conley even managed to play pick-and-roll with Rudy Gobert during the first half.

“Yes, he is an important part of our defense and offense, so we miss him a lot,” Doncic said of Lively.

The mentality for Doncic has remained consistent with the messaging throughout the various ups and downs the team has experienced this season. The goal is to take it day by day and not get too high or too low based on a particular outcome.

“Yeah, it’s fine, you know. We won three games. It’s the first, like I said, it’s the first through four,” Doncic said. “It doesn’t matter whether you win in four or seven. You just have to win four.”

If the Mavericks close out the Timberwolves on Thursday, they will play Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics on June 6 at TD Garden.

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