For the second year in a row the Florida Panthers are in the East Final, and the Rangers are back for the second time in three years. Who will get through to the Stanley Cup Final? Kristina Rutherford previews the series.

These NBA playoffs just keep on giving.

Minnesota and Denver played out a seven-game series to remember that ended in one of the most surreal post-season exits for a defending champion. Oklahoma City and Dallas provided all the drama imaginable in their tête-à-tête and the fourth quarter of Game 6 was an all-time classic.

Ultimately, Luka Doncic got his revenge on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander after their international summer battle at the FIBA World Cup while Anthony Edwards and his crew avenged their series defeat to the Nuggets a year ago.

We are now set to see a sixth new champion in six years, highlighting the parity in the league as the salary cap has become more and more challenging to manage and, of course, LeBron James’ second Cleveland exit and Kevin Durant’s departure from the Golden State Warriors.

Before we get to that point, there’s a Western Conference Finals to be played where both Minnesota and Dallas will be champing at the bit for a place in the NBA Finals. Here’s everything you need to know about an unexpected but thoroughly intriguing matchup:

(3) Minnesota Timberwolves vs. (5) Dallas Mavericks

Season series: Wolves won 3-1.

• Dec. 14 MIN @ DAL: Wolves won 119-101
• Dec. 28 DAL @ MIN: Wolves won 118-110
• Jan. 7 MIN @ DAL: Mavericks won 115-108
• Jan. 31 DAL @ MIN: Wolves won 121-87

Betting line:

Minnesota are 1.54/1 favourites to win the series, Dallas are 2.55/1 underdogs.

All odds courtesy Bet365.

Series schedule:

Wednesday May 22 @ 8:30pm ET, Game 1
Friday May 24 @ 8:30pm ET, Game 2
Sunday May 26 @ 8:00pm ET, Game 3
Tuesday May 28 @ 8:30pm ET, Game 4
Thursday May 30 @ 8:30pm ET, Game 5* (if necessary)
Saturday June 1 @ 8:30pm ET, Game 6* (if necessary)
Tuesday June 3 @ 8:30pm ET, Game 7* (if necessary)


As if the statement against the Suns wasn’t loud enough, Minnesota shed aside all its doubters that believed the team was still a year away by shocking the defending champion Denver Nuggets on their home floor by erasing a 20-point deficit in Game 7 to come back and win.

In a 54-24 run for the ages, the Wolves showed why they should be considered one of the greatest defensive teams of the modern era by stifling an elite offence led by the best player in the game today. Tim Connelly is the GM who assembled the Nuggets and has now created his former team’s kryptonite in the Wolves with an elite trio of bigs in Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Naz Reid that fit like a glove alongside the suffocating length and athleticism of Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels. Throw in the veteran savvy of Mike Conley and the two-way contributions of Nickeil Alexander-Walker and this team is an absolute juggernaut.

Against the Mavs, that defence will receive another stern test but the geometry changes quite a bit in going from the dynamic duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. Dereck Lively II and Daniel Gafford will serve as consistent lob threats while Wolves head coach Chris Finch has to debate letting P.J. Washington have a repeat of the series he just had against the Thunder in order to keep Irving’s contributions below expectations or playing things more straight up – as they’ve tended to – and believe they have what it takes.

Offensively, Edwards’ trust in his teammates stood out. While some may have been critical of him being too accepting of the double-team in the previous series, his teammates came through when it mattered and that’s why they are in the conference finals despite a 6-for-24 shooting night from their best player. Karl-Anthony Towns is rewriting his playoff narrative while Rudy Gobert is finally getting some flowers for his stellar rim protection.

McDaniels had 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting in Game 7, completely outplaying Michael Porter Jr. on both ends, and if he can have one or two of those games in this next round, the Wolves should like their chances of a maiden trip to the NBA Finals.


These are not your usual suspects on the defensive end but it is indeed these Mavs who boast the fifth-best defence in the post-season behind Orlando, Oklahoma City, Boston, and Minnesota. The fact that they have been able to do so without key rotation big Maxi Kleber makes it all the more impressive.

Dereck Lively II and Daniel Gafford have made vital contributions on the glass and exposing that weakness in the Thunder time and time again was a huge factor in coming out of that series alive. Now, the challenge only amplifies in trying to slay the three-headed dragon of Gobert, Towns and Reid.

Irving only averaged 15.7 points against the Thunder but it’s worth noting his field goal attempts and free-throw attempts were both down for the series as Oklahoma City prioritized getting the ball out of his hands. He trusted P.J. Washington and his bigs a tonne in the previous series but it’ll be interesting to see if that unselfishness and success can carry over against the Wolves. While Irving may not have been as daunting as usual offensively, he has been excellent on the defensive end and ha

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