The biggest reason the Timberwolves are kicking themselves while watching the NBA Finals

As the NBA finals go on, one trend is making it increasingly obvious why Minnesota should feel like they missed an opportunity against Dallas.
Anthony Edwards, Luka Doncic
Anthony Edwards, Luka Doncic / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

The Minnesota Timberwolves' 2023-24 season will likely be remembered most for two things — their incredible comeback and clutch Game 7 win against the defending champion Denver Nuggets, and their subsequent collapse against the fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals.

Beating the Nuggets seemed like the Wolves' biggest challenge all season. The reigning champs had built an incredibly well-rounded offensive and defensive approach, and defeating them four times in seven games seemed near-impossible. So when Minnesota outdid the best clutch team in the association in crunch time on their home floor in a do-or-die game, it almost seemed like the championship was theirs for the taking.

The Mavs appeared to be an easier matchup, and perhaps the Timberwolves overlooked their conference rivals. All in all, Minnesota had a chance to win three of the four games they lost to Dallas, holding leads in the final minutes of Games 1, 2 and 3. When they lost their leads in each of those games and the final buzzer sounded, their chances of a championship went right down the drain with it.

Now, the Mavericks are in the Finals, but they are getting exposed by the soon-to-be champion Boston Celtics. As the Timberwolves watch from the couch at home, they have to be kicking themselves for one specific reason. A big part of why the Celtics' process has worked so well is because of how often they are matchup-hunting Luka Doncic.

The Timberwolves did not hunt Luka on offense enough

According to ESPN statistics, Luka is allowing the highest blow-by percentage on drives of any player in a playoff series in the last 10 seasons. Doncic is getting blown by on over two-thirds of all drives he is defending in this Finals series against Boston, a simply staggering number.

Over the course of NBA history, there have been very few times where a Finals team's best player has been such a black hole defensively. Even players like Nikola Jokic and Stephen Curry, who are generally viewed as average defenders at best, have never been this much of a liability at that end of the floor in a playoff run.

What is even more mind-numbing is that the second and third-highest blow-by percentage in a series of the last decade also belong to Luka — and both those series came during the current playoff run, against the Clippers and Thunder. Obviously, the Mavericks' fourth and final playoff opponent, the Timberwolves, are missing from that list.

This is clear evidence that Minnesota did not focus on attacking Doncic on defense nearly enough, and it ended up costing them dearly. Luka has clearly been a massive defensive weakness all postseason, and it is hard to imagine the Wolves are not regretting the fact they did not take advantage of this matchup more consistently over the course of their five-game series with Dallas.