Anthony Edwards put his head down and finally attacked the basket with purpose. Multiple defenders converged as he reached the paint, causing Edwards to whip a pass back to Karl-Anthony Towns outside the three-point line.

The ball sailed out of Towns' reach, a turnover that summed up Wednesday's Game 1 of the Western Conference finals for the Timberwolves' star pairing.

Everything just looked off.

Edwards played lethargic. Towns missed too many shots.

“It's frustrating when you feel you didn't give yourself a better chance.”
Karl-Anthony Towns

The Dallas Mavericks won round one in the matchup of dueling star tandems, and the final score reflected it. The Mavs claimed a 108-105 win at Target Center on the backs of their superstars Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic while Edwards and Towns expressed frustration after neither was able to find an offensive rhythm.

"We were a step behind everybody, especially myself," Edwards said, noting the veteran Irving outran him for a transition layup on one sequence. "I was just exhausted."

Edwards and Towns accounted for only 35 points and 12 made shots combined. Perhaps it was a hangover effect from having a quick turnaround after their emotional, fight-to-the-finish Game 7 win at Denver on Sunday.

Towns noted after the series finale in Denver that the Wolves' strength has been their depth — "We don't have a big three, we have a big 15," he said — but they'll need more out of their two best players against Dallas' big two.

Towns figured to get a boost from not drawing such a taxing defensive assignment as the first two playoff series when he faced Kevin Durant and Nikola Jokic. But he never found his shooting touch in Game 1, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-20 shooting. He was only 2-of-9 from three-point range.

"We didn't make shots, they did," he said. "It's frustrating when you feel you didn't give yourself a better chance."

The pair finally provided a spark with the game slipping away in the fourth quarter.

Edwards made a three-pointer to end a four-minute scoring drought. Towns followed with a jumper, an assist on an alley-oop dunk to Rudy Gobert and a deep three-pointer to push the Wolves back ahead 99-98.

Mistakes snowballed after that, with turnovers and missed shots resulting in a deflating series opener.

"We didn't play with enough energy," Towns said. "We just looked tired. We didn't move as well as we usually do."

Edwards in particular looked sluggish. Only four of his 16 shots came from inside the three-point line. He settled for long jumpers rather than attack Dallas' defense. It's hard to know whether fatigue or Dallas' defensive scheme played a larger role in that.

"We would like to get him downhill a little bit more," coach Chris Finch said. "We'll look at the tape for ways to do that."

The Mavs remade their roster at the trade deadline, so the Wolves were curious about how they would be defended. Dallas' big men were more committed than Phoenix and Denver at protecting the rim, which seemed to cause Edwards to be more hesitant in deciding whether to drive, pass or launch three-pointers.

Edwards took only seven shots in the first half — one fewer than Kyle Anderson. That's not a script that should ever be used.

Edwards nearly recorded a triple-double (19 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) but his energy level and aggression weren't up to his usual standard.

"We came out flat," he said. "We found our energy and then we went back to being flat. Everything was on us. I didn't get downhill as much."

More rest before Game 2 should help. They also have a better idea of what to expect from Dallas' defensive approach now.

The Wolves have their hands full with the Mavs' two stars. They need Edwards and Towns to put that same pressure on Dallas.