The New Orleans Pelicans really just needed to survive tonight's game and finish their season. They entered tonight's game with seven active players, not many of whom would see minutes for most other NBA teams. This gave the Minnesota Timberwolves ample opportunity to celebrate the end of a long season of struggle, growth, and the final coronation of Karl-Anthony Towns' campaign to an almost-certain Rookie of the Year award with a 144-109 beatdown of the Pelicans.
It was easy to tell what kind of game this was going to be from the get-go. Within the first three minutes, Ricky Rubio had attempted no fewer than three behind-the-back passes, one of which could have been a gorgeous dunk but for Zach LaVine fumbling the handle. The Pelicans stayed close for a little bit, but then the Wolves stopped missing shots and sprinted on a 24-4 run to hold a 40-23 lead after the first quarter. The game was rarely closer than that 17-point margin again as the lead ballooned and ballooned, and the highlight plays continued for the home team.
From those first quarter highlights comes Towns' latest masterpiece, which you really have to see to appreciate.
That dude is nearly seven feet tall. Towns finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds to finish the season, including 2-5 from behind the arc as the Wolves made a scarcely-believable 13 threes on a season high 28 attempts, including threes from no fewer than eight Wolves (two from Gorgui Dieng!). The Pelicans' defense was nonexistent, and their offense failed to click into much gear, and the Wolves filled the stat sheet. Their 144 points set a new franchise record for most points in a game.
Every Wolf that played significant minutes filled the stat sheet. Dieng had a double-double of his own with 20 points and 11 boards. Rubio (10 assists) and Tyus Jones (12) facilitated wide open looks all night. Shabazz Muhammad enjoyed the dead time of the fourth quarter and somehow ended up with 28 points. Rubio had five steals, which may have set him on course to lead the league in steals per game, depending on Chris Paul and Stephen Curry's results from tonight's late games.
With that, the Wolves close the season at 29-53, past their preseason Vegas over-under of 25.5 wins. They won thirteen more games than in 2014-15, and have now set the table for an offseason of great expectations. Obviously much more information about the coming changes to the front office and coaching staff will filter down in the coming days, but with the reports that the timeline for these changes may be short, it will likely continue to be a busy news-filled time around Target Center.
A final thought: this was the first time the Wolves won their final game of the season since 2012-13. That's a mostly meaningless stat, but it signifies the hope that is now present for this talented young basketball team moving into the future quite nicely. Thank you all for reading our coverage throughout the year. Here's to the future.