gpolit.com
gpolit.com April 21, 2018


John Shipley: Timberwolves finally back in playoffs, but what's the plan?

13 April 2018, 01:11 | Rufus Hill

Timberwolves & Nuggets to Battle for Playoff Berth

Jeff Teague attempted a shot in the second half. ] CARLOS GONZALEZ

The Nuggets took an early lead, but the Wolves quickly pounced on a exhausted Nuggets team that could no longer buy a basket.

In a winner-take-all encounter for the last remaining post-season spot in the Western Conference, it was the Timberwolves who came out on top. Four years after drafting Zach LaVine and acquiring Andrew Wiggins, and three years away from using the No. 1 overall pick on Towns, the Timberwolves' rebuild has become a renovation. After Gibson hounded Jokic to force an air-balled 3-point try, Jeff Teague swished a floater with 1:19 left in overtime to put the Wolves back in front for good.

- It was the Timberwolves' biggest game in almost a decade and a half, a winner-take-all affair that had the potential to propel Minnesota into the playoffs or send them home in despair-and it did not disappoint. And the two misses were in the third quarter by Murray, one of the NBA's most accurate free-throw shooters at 90.5 percent. They extended the lead to ten points in the second quarter.

The Timberwolves ultimately held on for the victory, with the capacity and white-towel-waving crowd at Target Center standing to soak in the moment as the final horn sounded. With just nine seconds left and against the background of escalating screams and MVP chants, Butler stepped up to the free throw line.

While Timberwolves fans can celebrate getting back in the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, their stay will probably not be a long one.

Minnesota can celebrate as much as it needs after the overtime thriller.

It's not that Timberwolves have such a slight chance of surviving the Rockets, their first-round opponent starting Saturday or Sunday in Houston; any team would. Unfortunately, a date with Houston, who beat the Wolves three times this season, is their reward. The Houston Rockets and Toyota Center customer service team is unable to rectify fraudulent ticket purchases made outside of the designated outlets listed above.

While having Towns and Butler will keep the Wolves competitive in this series, expecting the upstart Wolves to upset the Houston Rockets is a pipe dream.

James Harden averaged 27.3 points and 10.3 assists per game in the four meetings, while Clint Capela added 18.8 points and 10 rebounds against Minnesota.

They beat the Nuggets 112-106 thanks in large part to veteran Taj Gibson, whose heroic overtime defense on Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic was the difference. The Timberwolves' personnel doesn't match up well with the Rockets' positionless brand of basketball.

Jodie Meeks came off the bench to score 18 points for Washington.



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