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SPORTS

Towns, Edwards Lift Wolves over Mavs 105-100 to Avoid Sweep in West Finals

DALLAS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns finally found his rhythm, and the Timberwolves finally closed a game in the Western Conference finals.

Now they head back to Minnesota to see if they can make things even more interesting against Dallas.

Towns scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half and the Wolves held off the Mavericks 105-100 on Tuesday night to avoid a sweep.

Anthony Edwards had 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Wolves stayed alive in their first trip to the conference finals in 20 years, and just the second in the franchise’s 35 seasons. Game 5 is Thursday night.

Towns, who was shooting 28% from the field in the series coming in, was 9 of 13 from the field, including four of five from 3-point range. And that was after picking up fifth foul midway through the third quarter.

“Being aggressive,” Towns said. “Ain’t no time to have any doubts in your mind, especially at this time, it’s Game 4, down 3-0. Ain’t no time to have any doubts.”

Luka Doncic had 28 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in his sixth triple-double of these playoffs, but he and co-star Kyrie Irving were just 13 of 39 from the field. Irving, who was 14-0 in his career in closeout games coming in, made just one of six from long range and finished with 16 points.

“That game’s on me. Just didn’t give enough energy,” said Doncic, who was 7 of 21 from the field, including 1 of 5 in the fourth when he and Irving had combined as closers to build the big series lead. “They won one game. We’ve just got to focus on the next one.”

The Wolves have led in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter of every game in the series, and this time they finished.

Towns put the Wolves ahead for good on a 3-pointer with 5:41 remaining, then hit another from deep the next time down. His third 3 of the final quarter put Minnesota up six with three minutes to go.

“He was super confident,” Edwards said. “He wasn’t worried about any shots previous to the shots that he hit tonight. He played exceptionally well.”

Edwards put the Wolves up five with a jumper just inside the arc with 39 seconds left, and Minnesota hung on despite Edwards fouling Doncic on a made 3-pointer for a three-point Dallas deficit with 12 seconds to go.

Doncic missed the free throw, and Naz Reid hit a bucket to push the margin back to five with 11 seconds remaining.

“It’s hard to close in this league,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said after his team shot 29% from 3 in the second half. “Understanding we didn’t play our best. Give Minnesota credit. They did.”

The biggest sign of Towns’ rhythm came in the third, when he scored 10 points in the first seven minutes before picking up his fifth foul for elbowing P.J. Washington Jr. in the face as Towns went up for a shot.

The call against Towns prompted a technical foul against Minnesota coach Chris Finch from the second row, where he’s been confined since the start of the second round of the playoffs because of a knee injury that required surgery. Assistant Micah Nori has been roaming the sidelines.

Finch flirted with a second technical, which would have meant an ejection, a few minutes later when Edwards was called for his fourth foul going for a steal against Daniel Gafford.

“To have him be on the sideline but behind the bench for the majority of these playoffs, you forget the impact he can have,” said Mike Conley, who scored 14 points. “When your coach is up getting technicals and yelling and when you see him hobbling around to do it, it’s impressive. It lit a fire on all of us.”

Towns fouled out in the final two minutes, while Edwards and Rudy Gobert, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds, finished with five apiece.

“We weathered a lot of foul trouble out there, which was frustrating to say the least,” Finch said. “Credit to our guys. They found a way to win the game. It was a lot like Games 1 and 2, and we were able to get it done tonight.”

The Wolves avoided being the 16th team out of 21 to get swept after losing the first three games of a series that started at home. Now they’ll try to be just the fourth to force at least six games.

Jaden Hardy scored 10 of his 13 points in a 3:38 stretch that spilled into the first bucket of the fourth quarter, a corner 3 that pulled Dallas within two. Four of the game’s 11 lead changes came in the fourth.

The Mavs were without rookie center Dereck Lively II, who injured his neck when Towns accidentally kneed him in back of the head in Game 3.

Maxi Kleber, who has been out since May 3 with a separated shoulder, returned to give Dallas another option inside. But Daniel Gafford didn’t have his regular tag team partner as a rim protector at center, and the Wolves shot a series-best 53% from the field.

___
By SCHUYLER DIXON AP Sports Writer

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