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Wolves' Finch: League's wide open, why not us?

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch reiterated a point he told his team before the year -- that the league is wide open and Minnesota is poised to take advantage.


  • May 22 2024
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Wolves' Finch: League's wide open, why not us?
Wolves' Finch: League's wide open, why not us?

MINNEAPOLIS -- There was certainly plenty for the Minnesota Timberwolves to celebrate after coming from 20 points down to win Game 7 in Denver to advance to their first first Western Conference finals in 20 years.

But head coach Chris Finch reminded his team on Tuesday that there are still eight more wins to go to capture the NBA championship. And with the defending champions out, Finch repeated a message from the start of the season to the Wolves.

"[It's] been a great season," Finch said of his talk with his team. "We've accomplished a lot. But we said from the beginning and as the season was unfolding -- why not us?

"The league's wide open. We're not in a dynastic period. As proven, there's going to be a new champion this year. So everything's still to play for, but a long, long way to go."

After outlasting the defending champion Nuggets in seven games, the Wolves turned their focus to the Dallas Mavericks and how their top-rated defense must adjust from trying to slow down MVP Nikola Jokic to containing this season's scoring champ in Luka Doncic and the incredibly skilled Kyrie Irving.

"It's going to be a different style of game," Minnesota point guard Mike Conley said. "A lot more pick-and-rolls. The ball handler is the Jokic of the series where they do a lot of stuff for Luka and Kyrie and guys have to be able to be in and out in help situations. They play fast with the throw ahead to their athletic wings. So we'll have multiple challenges this series and we'll have to figure out how to do that right away."

Minnesota went 3-1 against Dallas in the regular season. However, Doncic, who averaged 33.9 points per game, did not play in two of the losses.

This is the sixth time since the NBA-ABA merger (1976-77) in which the reigning scoring champion is facing the top team in opposing points per game allowed in a series, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

But the Wolves have more than Doncic and Irving to figure out. The two teams have not played since Jan. 31, before the Mavericks transformed their team with trades for P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford on Feb. 8.

"We haven't played this iteration," Finch said. "We played them our four times before the [All-Star] break/trade deadline, so they're a way more complete and complementary unit. Their defense has taken a big step forward with the rim protection.

"You could see their kind of connectivity on defense and overall effort is at an all-time high there and they've got a lot of really good pieces around Luka and Kyrie that can really make shots, get out in transition, do all the things that they needed to do to support those guys."

Finch said Conley's Achilles injury, which kept him out of Game 5 against Denver, is a pain-tolerance management issue but that his injury "didn't look to be too bad" in Game 7.

"It honestly depends on if you can get through the game without having any small setback," said Conley, who played 38 minutes in Game 7 against Denver on Sunday. "You have some movements that really kind of jar it or cause the pain to go up really quickly and kind of stays there for a little while. Some games I get through the whole game and you don't have any setback and so you just kind of keep building upward and forward. So I'm just trying to stack as many of those days together as I can."

Conley is returning to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2013 when he was with the Memphis Grizzlies. Veterans like himself and Rudy Gobert are not taking this trip to the conference finals for granted.

"It's my dream," Gobert said. "I've always dreamed about being a champion. It's always been my goal, win a championship, since I got in the league. And when I got traded here, the first thing that I said is that I believe, I believe in this organization, I believe in the group.

"And for me and for this organization, we are now in a territory that we haven't been before for this group. Enjoy the moment. There's nothing I want more right now, the championship, so I'm going to do whatever it takes."

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