Posted on April 12, 2018, by Travis Pulver
The last time there was a winner-take-all game played in Minneapolis (1997) some of the current Timberwolves players couldn’t say “basketball” let alone dribble one. The same could be said for their opponents Wednesday night, the Denver Nuggets.
What fans got to see before the night was over was a good number of youthful mistakes on both sides. They also got to two talented teams fighting for their playoff lives. In the end, both teams turned in good efforts—but someone had to win.
It was clear from the start that neither team was going to make it easy on the other. But after the first quarter, Minnesota held a small lead, 29-26. They extended the lead to ten points in the second quarter. However, by the time the period came to an end, the lead was eight points, 62-54.
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Minnesota was getting what they needed out of Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns; each had 16 points in the first half. But heading into the second half, Minnesota fans had to wonder if their team could keep up its dominance in the paint (36-24).
Not only that but how much could the team get out of Butler if they needed him?
As it turns out, they needed him to play a lot since the game ended up going into overtime. Denver slowly chipped away at Minnesota’s lead in the second half. After the third, the deficit was down to five points, 86-81.
A layup by Jamal Murray with 1:59 left to play tied the game up at 101-101. But then neither team could make a shot over the final two minutes sending the game to overtime.
Denver jumped ahead, 106-105 after Paul Milsap hit a short jumper with 2:28 left to play. That ended up being the last basket the Nuggets made. Jeff Teague put the T-Wolves in front for good with a 14-footer with 1:19 left to play.
Jimmy Butler closed out the scoring with a pair of free throws making the final 112-106.
Butler, who was playing in just his third game back from injury, led the way with 31 points. Towns chipped in a double-double (26 points, 14 rebounds) and Andrew Wiggins had 18 points.
Nikola Jokic turned in a strong game for Denver with 35 points and ten rebounds. He got a fair amount of help from Will Barton (24 points, eight rebounds) and Jamal Murray (20 points, six rebounds). But he didn’t get much out of anyone else. The rest of the roster combined for 27 points among six players.
As could be expected, the Minnesota players were a little emotional about breaking the streak and earning a spot in the playoffs (they last played a postseason game in 2004). Towns spoke about it after the game (NBA):
“It was a lot of emotions,” he said. “I’ll probably fall asleep and in the middle of the night and wake up and start crying.”
“When you have a game like this you learn a lot of things, especially about ourselves. Knowing we can get those stops and do those little things like we did tonight, it gives us a lot of momentum going in.”
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. They have the unenviable task of facing the Houston Rockets in the first round.
The T-wolves odds of winning the championship are pretty long at 80:1. Houston’s, on the other hand, is just 3:2.