Mavericks center resurrects his play and changes the tide against Timberwolves

Dallas Mavericks, Daniel Gafford
Dallas Mavericks, Daniel Gafford / Tim Heitman/GettyImages

On Friday night, the Dallas Mavericks stunned the NBA world by taking a 2-0 series lead over the heavily favored Minnesota Timberwolves.

After finding themselves down by 18 points in the second quarter, Dallas regained momentum and charged up the leaderboard to take a 109-108 lead with three seconds left.

Superstar Luka Doncic finished the game with a 32-point triple-double and even nailed the go-ahead three with just seconds left. After nailing his signature step-back three over Rudy Gobert, Doncic let the Minnesota crowd and Gobert know he was here to stay.

Daniel Gafford resurrects his play and changes the tide against Timberwolves

With the Mavericks stealing two games on the road, they will now head back home for a chance to close out the Timberwolves. If the Mavericks win the next two games at home, they will be in their first NBA Finals since the 2011 NBA Championship run.

With Doncic and Kyrie Irving taking control of the game for 48 minutes, it led to many extended opportunities for other Dallas role players. One player who took advantage of his time on the floor was Daniel Gafford.

Gafford has struggled to enforce his size and shot-blocking presence down low throughout this season's playoff run as much as he should. However, in Game 2, Gafford had arguably his best playoff game as a Maverick. Gafford finished with 16 points on the offensive end and led the game with five blocks.

Fans have called out Gafford for his lack of energy and effectiveness through the playoffs but it appears he has answered the call after Game 2. Gafford quickly established his presence at the rim and even made it difficult for any defensive player to contest his looks at the rim.

Gafford did an excellent job at defending the interior, as he was extremely timely with his rotations all game when you take into consideration just how many instances there were where the Mavericks' perimeter defenders were getting beat off the dribble by the likes of Mike Conley and Anthony Edwards.

Gafford also posted one of his more stout efforts in these playoffs regarding defending on the perimeter, as he moved his feet well in space and closed out well on Timberwolves' shooters when he was switched onto guards and wings. Gafford had an insane individual sequence in the fourth quarter as well, as he blocked a Conley 3-point attempt and then finished with a falling-down layup on the other end off of a tough catch in traffic to help uphold Dallas' momentum in a crucial juncture of the game.

Gafford's play in Game 2 comes off the heels of him having a very up-and-down postseason, as what once seemed to be a dynamic center duo between him and rookie Dereck Lively II has somewhat depreciated in these playoffs, as Lively II has defended better in space and has made better decisions in the short-roll compared to Gafford throughout most of these playoffs.

Lively II's ascension in these playoffs has been crucial for Dallas' rebounding and defensive efforts, but if Gafford starts to play as he did during the regular season, the Mavericks will have a far improved chance to advance to the NBA Finals when you take into account that Dallas has a lethal injection of effective size and length in the paint when both Lively II and Gafford are both playing well.

For more on Daniel Gafford and the Dallas Mavericks throughout the 2024 NBA Playoffs, stay tuned as we will have you covered.