Remember the dread among Timberwolves fans when they drew Kevin Durant and the hyper-talented Phoenix Suns in the first round?

Remember the angst when the Wolves fell behind the Nuggets and Nikola Jokic, the best player in the world, in the conference semifinals?

Turns out the greatest challenge to the NBA's top-ranked defense may have arrived in the Western Conference finals.

The Wolves smothered Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal in a first-round sweep.

They announced their presence as championship contenders by winning a Game 7 in Denver.

On Wednesday night, they transitioned from defending great scorers to trying to ascertain the location of illusionists.

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, complementary point guards who might as well work for Cirque du Soleil, presented a completely different set of problems for the Wolves in Game 1 as they led the Dallas Mavericks to a 108-105 victory at Target Center.

Irving spent the first half slicing through the Wolves' esteemed defense, finishing with improbable bursts of speed and shots made from improbable angles.

Doncic controlled the game in the fourth quarter, making shots from all over the court for 15 points in the final frame and looking unbothered by the Wolves' best defenders.

The two combined for 63 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists, but the numbers don't tell the whole story.

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Stylistically, Irving and Doncic may be unique in NBA history. Perhaps only Allen Iverson could, at his relatively diminutive size, get to the rim and score virtually anytime and any way he wanted.

Doncic is big enough to back down a large defender, savvy enough to make the right pass when double-teamed and skilled enough to score in any manner imaginable.

Neither dunked Wednesday. The games that schooled the Wolves on Wednesday are decidedly old-school.

After the game, Irving mounted the three steps to the postgame interview table slowly and painfully, as if he were mimicking Chris Finch.

Finch, the Timberwolves' coach, is recovering from knee surgery. Irving is 32 and, as he put it, has "been to the mountaintop," having won an NBA title alongside LeBron James in 2016.

Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards was early in his high school career then. Irving, embracing the role of elder statesman these days, laughed when reminded that Edwards, after that Game 7 in Denver, said on national TV, "I got Kyrie."

"As a peer, man, I love that, I love it," said Irving, who made a point early by scoring 24 of them in the first half Wednesday. "There's nothing better. When Ant was a little bit younger, I'm sure he was watching me, and when he was in high school, I was watching him. So for me, it's one of those exciting matchups I look forward to.

"It was funny, he said that right after the game, and the whole world was watching, like, 'OK, you better know what you're talking about.' I respect that and that no-fear mentality."

Maybe a little fear is in order.

Irving is not only having a phenomenal season — his season stats are eerily similar to Edwards' — he's also playing intense and intuitive defense, which is not something that could be said of him for much of his career.

Now Irving is collaborating with another great point guard and playing for a third great point guard in Mavericks coach Jason Kidd.

It's hard to double-team a great point guard, and the Mavericks have two who excel at illusionists' skills: sleight of hand and misdirection.

"We're seeing a lot of chess matches out there," Irving said.

On Wednesday, the Mavericks were the chess masters.