TTX Sports >Cycling Trails >How Karl-Anthony Towns' 3-point shooting could make the difference in Wolves' series comeback vs. Mavs -

How Karl-Anthony Towns' 3-point shooting could make the difference in Wolves' series comeback vs. Mavs -


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The Dallas Mavericks failed to pull off the sweep against the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night after falling 105-100 in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. You would think that from a big-picture point of view, one loss in a series where you led 3-0 is small potatoes. Especially when, for most of this series the Mavericks have played like the better team on both ends of the floor, highlighted by Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving simply outplaying Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns.

But that changed in Game 4, especially for Towns, who put up 25 points on 9 of 13 from the floor, and, even more importantly, 4 of 5 from deep. Every triple Towns knocked down was more important than the last in Game 4, and now that the lid is finally off the rim for him, the Mavericks should be concerned.

On several occasions the Timberwolves did a great job of using off-ball screens to get Towns a window of space to launch from 3-point range.

In fact, of the four triples Towns knocked down, three of them came as either Jaden McDaniels or Kyle Anderson set screens to wall off defenders to allow the big man to shoot. 

When the game got tight at the end of the fourth quarter, Towns was already in rhythm, so he had no issue knocking down this 3-pointer with Derrick Jones Jr. tightly guarding him to extend Minnesota's lead.

How Towns is getting his shots isn't new. The Wolves have been doing similar stuff throughout the regular season and in the playoffs, and he's been incredibly successful at it, generating 1.182 points per possession off screens, which ranks in the 80th percentile in the league. But now he's starting to knock them down, and with the Mavericks in drop coverage on some of these Timberwolves screens -- which makes sense considering they don't have Dereck Lively II to protect the paint -- they got burned each time. Once the Mavs couldn't fight through the screen to get to Towns, he was able to get off clean looks. And now that he's in a rhythm after Game 4, they can't afford to take a relaxed approach in defending him on the 3-point line.

Towns is a career 39.8% 3-point shooter, and during the regular season, he was knocking them down at a 41.6% clip on over five attempts per game. Through the first three games of this series, he was having an uncharacteristically bad stretch, shooting an appalling 13.6% from beyond the arc. But in the first two rounds, he was shooting 44% from deep on over four attempts per game. So what we saw in Game 4 was a regression to the mean in KAT's shot, and that's not a good thing if you're the Mavericks. Towns being able to knock down those triples opens things up for Minnesota's offense, just like we saw on Tuesday, and the Mavericks had no way of combating it.

This could all change if Lively returns because he clogs the paint up so much that it doesn't have to force Dallas' perimeter defenders from making a decision between taking away the rim or the 3-pointer. That's why the Mavericks were so successful in the first three games of this series with Lively, who is listed as questionable for Game 5. The rookie big man has left his fingerprints all over this series with his aggressive play on defense, hustling to corral offensive boards and being a lob threat when he shares the floor with Doncic or Irving.

But if he can't play, or can't operate at the same level he did earlier in this series, then the Mavericks may be in trouble for Game 5. There's no reason to fully panic just yet, but the last thing you want to do in this situation is give an opponent hope, especially a Minnesota team that hasn't wavered in its confidence despite getting outplayed for most of this series. 

Sure, teams are 155-0 in NBA history when leading 3-0 in a playoff series, with only four of those series reaching a Game 7, but if there were ever a team to pull off something like this, it would be the Timberwolves. Game 4 gave Minnesota some successful tactics to deploy on the offensive side of the ball, and with Towns seemingly in a rhythm now, Dallas should be concerned about this series being extended any further. 

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