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Mavericks vs. Timberwolves: Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are too much for Anthony Edwards and an absent KAT

After losing Game 3 in Dallas on Sunday, 116-107, the Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves down 3-0 to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals despite being outscored by total of just 13 points across the entire series to this point. 

To look at the numbers, you would think this has been an incredibly close series. And it has in some ways. But in others, the chasm between the Wolves and Mavericks feels vast, notably along the superstar ledger. 

Through the first three games, Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving have outscored Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, who has been absolutely miserable, by 70 points (181-111). The rest of the Wolves have outscored the rest of the Mavericks by 57 points. 

And there’s your 13-point disparity for the series. 

This has been a separation of the stars so far. 

I’ll start with Towns, because this won’t take long. He was 0-for-8 from 3-point range in Game 3. His last miss was a terrible shot at a crucial point of the fourth quarter. He’s shooting 27.8% in this series, including 3-of-22 from 3. It’s a testament to Minnesota’s grit that it’s played Dallas this tightly with its second-best scorer laying this kind of egg, but that’s just not tenable. Minnesota’s offense is limited enough. 

Meanwhile, Doncic and Irving, who both went for 33 points in Game 3 and, together, are averaging almost 60 in this series, are now the first starting backcourt over the last 50 years to each score at least 30 points in the same game three different times during the same postseason, per ESPN Stats. 

There are levels to this superstar stuff, and Doncic and Irving are on a higher one than Edwards right one, particularly when it comes to scoring inevitability. 

With Edwards, despite him probably being the best athlete in the league, there are holes in the arsenal — namely the lack of a consistent jumper. It’s not to suggest he can’t shoot; of course he can, and when he has it going, he’s as deadly as anyone. There’s not a shot on the court he can’t make on a given attempt. 

In fact, Edwards, from a percentage standpoint, is dusting Doncic from downtown in these playoffs (39% to 32%). But Edwards’ jumper still isn’t a go-to shot every night. Unless he’s scorching hot, it’s a Plan B most nights. Some nights, which has often been the case in this series, he becomes hesitant to attack because he can see multiple bodies in his driving lanes and he doesn’t trust the pull-up or step-back in the same way that Doncic and Irving do, whether they’re making them or not. 

That natural escape valve when you are constantly seeing disproportionate defensive attention is maybe the only difference between Dallas’ two star scorers and Edwards right now, but it’s a big one. Edwards was true to his word that he would be more aggressive in Game 3, when he took 24 shots, but he only attempted two 3-pointers, both misses, and he made just three jump shots all night. It is very difficult against playoff defenses that are entirely focused on you to consistently get to the rim. 

Meanwhile, Doncic and Irving combined to sink 17 jumpers, including three over the final six minutes — a pair of Doncic fadeaways and a sick corner step-back from Irving to pretty much ice the win. Even with a sensational athlete like Edwards, a defense can band together to thwart consistent rim attacks. Hell, even Giannis Antetokounmpo runs into this problem. 

Irving and Doncic, meanwhile, are comfortable taking and making shots that you’re theoretically trying to force them to take. They make the “nothing you can do about that” shots, which are not circumstantial in terms of when they might be available. 

If you’re actually looking for 25-foot step-backs and midrange fade-aways rather than taking those shots on the defense’s terms, you are never going to find yourself in a position where you can’t get to your proverbial spots. You’re going to play on your terms every night. No matter what defense you see, you’ll have an answer. 

Indeed, the Timberwolves tried every defensive coverage they could think of against Doncic on Sunday. None of it worked. 

Edwards is already a superstar and he may very well be on his way to being the best player in the league one day. But that day is not today. Today, Doncic is just a better player, and certainly a better scorer, and he can draw upon more experience with defenses devoted entirely to stopping him. Edwards is still looking around contemplating. He hasn’t found that exact balance between patience and aggression, too often erring on the former. 

Doncic and Irving, they know exactly what to do, and when and how to do it. There is no shot the defense can force them into because there is no shot they’re uncomfortable taking. It’s all on their terms. Edwards still has to figure out that part of the superstar equation, and it doesn’t help that Irving and Doncic can do this together while Edwards is going at it alone with Towns putting forth one of his worst showings at the worst possible time. 

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