Wolves have chore of slowing Doncic, Mavericks

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Winners of eight of their last nine, the Dallas Mavericks are red-hot returning home to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday in the second half of a back-to-back.

The Mavericks began their week Sunday with a win over the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers. The 114-100 victory in Los Angeles offered an early suggestion about this young Dallas team’s place in the NBA pecking order, as coach Rick Carlisle detailed to Mavs.com.

“Every time we have a game like this, people are more than ever throwing their best game at us,” he said.

Dallas responded in short order on Tuesday at New Orleans, using a 34-22 fourth quarter to rout the Pelicans 118-97.

Second-year Mavericks sensation Luka Doncic, earlier in the day named Western Conference Player of the Month for November, posted 33 points and a career-high 18 rebounds in the win.

Defending Doncic is the first order of business for Minnesota. Doncic is averaging just outside of a triple-double per game at 30.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 9.4 assists.

Minnesota comes into Dallas ranked 22nd in the NBA with 114.4 points allowed per game, but a defensive rating rank of 12th. The Timberwolves have the league’s sixth-best two-point field-goal defensive percentage at 48.6, and rank in the middle of the NBA with 15.5 turnovers generated per game.

“Karl(-Anthony Towns) has done a good job this year of being in a place of either contesting at the rim or impacting the basketball as opposed to being in what we as coaches like to call ‘no man’s land,’ which I do think helps our block rate,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said, per Timberwolves.com. “But then we also have a number of wings and guards who … (are) getting through ball screens, getting through actions, not giving up on plays, and with that, we have some positive length, so guys are able to get their hands on some loose balls.”

Towns will likely draw the defensive assignment of second-leading Dallas scorer, Kristaps Porzingis. However, limiting Doncic’s looks off dribble penetration will require rotation from Towns in the post, leaving a now-healthy Robert Covington responsible for sliding over to help.

In addition to the threat of penetration, Minnesota’s perimeter defenders must contend with a 36.4-percent 3-point shooting Dallas team. That ranks eighth in the NBA.

Three-point defense proved to be Minnesota’s weakness its last time out, a 115-107 loss to Memphis on Sunday. The Timberwolves gave up 16 3-pointers on 40 attempts in what was Minnesota’s fifth consecutive loss at home.

In contrast, Minnesota heads into Dallas having won four in a row on the road, its last loss coming nearly a month ago on Nov. 6 in Memphis.

Both of the Timberwolves’ leading scorers — Towns and Andrew Wiggins — scored below their season averages on Sunday. Towns finished with 21 points, nearly five below his mark, and Wiggins’ 18 was almost seven below his average.

–Field Level Media

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