Mavs need one more win to reach their third NBA Finals

With nothing but respect in mind, the Dallas Mavericks want everyone to pump the brakes a little bit.Jones

After Sunday’s 116-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference Finals, the Mavs have a commanding 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven series. No team has bounced back from such a deficit to win a series in the history of the NBA.

While the odds are obviously stacked in the Mavs’ favor that they’ll advance to the NBA Finals for the third time in franchise history, they have chosen to put up the caution flag.

“We still need one more (win) to get this done,” forward Derrick Jones Jr. said following Monday’s practice. “And until that one more is finished, we ain’t happy.”

Coach Jason Kidd echoed that sentiment, although he knows NBA teams are a perfect 154-0 record when they lead a best-of-seven series, 3-0.

HardyWhen you talk about the series, it’s the first team to four, not the first team to one or two or three,” Kidd said. “We’ve talked about that. We haven’t done anything.

“We have another game at home to protect home. We know where the series stands, but it’s just us trying to protect home tomorrow night. And that’s what we talked about today, understanding Minnesota is going to come out with everything and expect that they’re going to make every shot.”

It’s an expectation that keeps the Mavs on their toes as they realize this series isn’t over until it’s over.

“We have to make it tough, continue to not let go of the rope,” Kidd said. “But continue to be desperate and hungry.”

The Mavs are desperate and hungry mainly because they’ve only had a taste of the NBA Finals two previous times in the franchise’sHardy history. The Mavs advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in 2006, where they led the Miami Heat, 2-0, but dropped the next four games and the series. But the Mavs got revenge on Miami when they beat the Heat in six games in the 2011 Finals.

Now that they’re so close to getting back there again, the Mavs don’t want to count their chickens before they’ve hatched.

“It’s a great position to be in,” second-year guard Jaden Hardy said. “For sure, we can’t take this for granted.

“I look at it as a blessing. We’re just taking it day-by-day. We want to go all the way.”

MavsFor the Mavs, going all the way starts with closing out this series against the Timberwolves. In Kidd’s first season coaching the Mavs, they were one step away from reaching the NBA Finals in 2022, but fell short when they lost to the Golden State Warriors in five games in the Western Conference Finals.

“Yeah, we’re not going to take anything for granted,” Kidd said. “We have to earn it.

“It’s not going to be handed to us. So, we have to go get it, and tomorrow we have an opportunity to do that.”

One of the reasons the Mavs have a stranglehold on this series is because they’ve made the lob threat a valuable and almost indefensible asset. Entering Monday’s Game 4 between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers in the Eastern ConfereLivelynce Finals, there have been a total of 107 lob dunks completed in this year’s playoffs.

The Mavs have 48 of them, and the rest of the teams have combined for just 59, according to Second Spectrum. And the recipients on the receiving end for the Mavs have mostly been centers Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively II.

“I feel like the lob dunk, that goes to our bigs,” Hardy said. “I feel like they’ve done a great job holding the paint down. Whenever we’re able to get in the paint and the bigs step up, you can just throw it up and those guys are going to go get it.

“You can throw it anywhere with D-Live and Gaff. Ever since we got Gaff, So, just having those guys to be able to have lob threats and people who can protect the paint, it’s good for us.”

While that’s true, it’s not a lock that Lively will be able to play in Game 4. The rookie from Duke suffered a neck sprain when — while falling to the floor in the second quarter in Game 3 this past Sunday — the back of his head inadvertently made contact with Karl-Anthony Town’s right knee.

LivelyLively is listed as doubtful for Game 4. In the meantime, while Hardy knows the close-out game is one of the most difficult games to play, he appreciates the fact that he’s been able to get some valuable playing time in this series.

“The game has slowed down for me in so many ways,” Hardy said. “And that goes for the work that I put in and late nights in the gym, and watching film with the coaches.

“With all of that and my faith in my craft, I feel like that plays a part in me being ready and being able to go out there and perform with the minutes that I’m getting. My confidence continues to grow even when I’m out there with Luka (Dončić) and (Kyrie Irving) and they’re telling me to go. Whenever they tell me to go, I go.”

Nowadays, the Mavs’ biggest desire is to go to the NBA Finals. One more win will get them there.

BILL WALTON PASSES: Hall of Fame center, Bill Walton, died Monday of cancer at the age of 71.

Walton led UCLA to NCAA titles in 1972 and ’73, guided the Portland Trail Blazers to an NBA title in 1977, and was a key member of the title the Boston Celtics won in 1986.

“When you talk about Bill Walton, UCLA legend,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said. “He always talked about the Pac-12 or Pac-10 or Pac-8 as the league of champions.

“It’s a legend lost when you talk about basketball. And what he brought to the media side as an ex-player to be able to be successful not just on the court, but also on TV, so just understanding that (he) will be missed.”

X: @DwainPrice

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