Expo City Dubai to host NBXL, the first US-Middle East professional basketball league

Expo City Dubai to host NBXL, the first US-Middle East professional basketball league
Expo City Dubai to host NBXL, the first US-Middle East professional basketball league

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - DALLAS: Karl-Anthony Towns scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half and the Minnesota Timberwolves held off the Dallas Mavericks 105-100 on Tuesday night to avoid a sweep in the Western Conference finals.

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.

Towns, who was shooting 28 percent from the field in the series coming in, was 9 of 13 from the field, including four of five from deep.

“He got himself going by going to the hoop,” coach Chris Finch said. “Played quick off the catch. Stayed confident. He didn’t really look much for his 3 until the second half. He just had his feet set. He was ready. And they were huge.”

Now third-seeded Minnesota head home for Game 5 on Thursday night to see if they can make the series even more interesting against No. 5 seed Dallas.

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, 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 3-0 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, who picked up his fifth foul midway through the third quarter, put the Wolves ahead for good on a 3-pointer with 5:41 remaining, then hit another from deep the next time down.

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.

Towns appeared to be finding a rhythm, scoring 10 points in the first seven minutes of the third quarter 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 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.

Towns fouled out in the final two minutes, while Edwards and Rudy Gobert 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.

Mike Conley scored 14 points for Minnesota, and Rudy Gobert had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

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 series-best 53 percent from the field.

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