Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks [608x342] - Copy
Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks [608x342] - Copy (Credit: Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

Dodgers send struggling starter Miller to minors

The Western Conference finals begin tonight (8:30 ET) with two teams fresh off defeating the top two seeds in the previous round.

The Minnesota Timberwolves (56-26, 40-39-3 ATS) and Dallas Mavericks (50-32, 49-33 ATS) are both excellent defensively and have defensive units built around traditional big men who can defend the paint and crash the glass.

Oh yeah, there are also really big-name offense-producers in guys named Luka Doncic, Anthony Edwards, Kyrie Irving and Karl-Anthony Towns. This should be the start of a fun series, so let's take a last look at the matchups to amplify angles of interest for players and/or teams to outproduce expectations.

Basketball Power Index by ESPN Analytics. Injury aggregation by Odds by ESPN BET 

Mavericks-Timberwolves under 207.5 total points (-115). In their four wins against the Nuggets, the Timberwolves' defense clamped down like the 2004 Pistons. The Nuggets, one of the best offenses in basketball, were held to 84.8 PPG in those four contests. Meanwhile, on the other side, the Mavericks also have been a stifling defense since the trade deadline, tied for third in the Western Conference in team defensive rating since February 8 (behind the Timberwolves and Thunder). I expect this to be a defensive-minded series that is won in the trenches, with several low-scoring games. With both teams coming off long, grueling series last round, Game 1 could be one of the relatively low-scoring contests.

Rudy Gobert over 1.5 blocks (-160). Gobert is fresh off working to defend the toughest cover in the NBA in Nikola Jokic, but in this series he gets to face the Mavericks' duo of athletic, defensive-minded centers. Both Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively are pure finishers in the paint and do their damage around the rim, which will allow Gobert to man his preferred role as a rim-protector. Gobert averaged 2.1 BPG this season, and if he can camp in the paint he should be a menace to any player trying to score at the rim.

Derrick Jones Jr. over 8.5 points (-120). Jones stepped up his scoring in the conference semifinals, taking advantage of the open looks generated by the Thunder focusing on Doncic and Irving. Jones took the scoring baton from P.J. Washington (who was hot in the first half of the series) and averaged 19.3 PPG over in the last three games of the series. The Timberwolves are also likely to focus on Luka and Kyrie, allowing Jones (and Washington, who I also like at over 12.5 points at -110) to pick up extra scoring opportunities.

Doncic to record a triple-double (+360). Doncic came within decimal points of averaging a triple-double for the season, notching 33.9 PPG, 9.8 APG and 9.2 RPG. His scoring has been down in the playoffs, but his playmaking and rebounding are rock steady. Doncic has triple-doubles in three straight games, has grabbed double-digit rebounds in five straight games and has dished double-digit assists in six of the past nine games. I feel like Doncic is at least 50-50 to get a triple-double on a given night, yielding great value at this much plus money.