1 Shocking adjustment Timberwolves must make to defeat Mavericks

Minnesota must make one critical change if they are to advance to their first ever NBA Finals.
Kyrie Irving, Anthony Edwards
Kyrie Irving, Anthony Edwards / David Berding/GettyImages

The Minnesota Timberwolves' first appearance in the Western Conference Finals in 20 years did not begin according to plan. On Wednesday evening, the Dallas Mavericks came into Target Center and delivered a strong first blow in the series, weathering a late Minnesota run and executing well down the stretch to come away with the 108-105 victory.

In what was a close contest throughout, it was a disappointing finish for the Wolves who could not carry over their strong play from the second round, where they won two straight to erase a 3-2 series deficit. At the team's practice and film session on Thursday, Head Coach Chris Finch had some harsh but effective words for his guys.

"Yeah, it was a rough film session," he said. "I told the guys, ‘It’s been a long time since I’ve been this disappointed in your effort. Your performance, your attitude, your application and attention to detail just wasn’t there.’ The Western Conference finals started. Not sure if they got the memo. But they got it this afternoon.” Clearly, there was an effort and mentality present during the second round against Denver that Minnesota simply did not have in Game 1 against the Mavericks.

Cleaning that up will go a long way toward tying the series at one apiece before the action shifts to Dallas. But one more specific strategy will also be a necessity moving forward as well: shifting Anthony Edwards' defensive assignment away from Kyrie Irving.

Chris Finch should take Edwards off Kyrie Irving

In Game 1, we saw Irving go off for 30 points on 12-for-23 shooting. As he explained to the NBA on TNT crew after the game, part of his performance may have been due to Edwards' subtle trash talk after Game 7 against the Nuggets, where he boldly declared he would defend Kyrie.

These types of competitive statements are totally fine to make, but you simply have to understand what you are getting into. The result of Ant's statement was Irving having a little added motivation heading into what was obviously already a massive game.

We saw the two matched up multiple times throughout the contest on Wednesday, with Kyrie's quickness and constant movement wearing down Edwards just a bit. As we know, Ant is a two-way superstar that gives his all at both ends of the court. So perhaps in an effort to free up just a bit more energy for him, the Wolves could consider giving him a different defensive assignment in Game 2.

This would prevent Ant from breaking down so quickly, and could free up a lot of different things for Minnesota. This roster is stacked full of capable defenders, so putting a Jaden McDaniels or a Nickeil Alexander-Walker on him is not going to allow Irving to get his game off any more than he is now.

The Mavs did not shoot the ball well in Game 1, going just 6-for-25 from three-point range and still coming away with the win. A seemingly small adjustment like this one could end up changing a lot for the Timberwolves as this series moves on.