The 1997-98 Timberwolves were the first team in franchise history to finish over .500. They went 45-37, which was good enough for the 7th seed in the Western Conference. This would be their second appearance in the playoffs, after being swept by the Houston Rockets in 1997.
The Wolves would face the 2nd seeded, 61 win Seattle Supersonics, led by Gary Payton. Interesting note about these Sonics: They were, for the time, a prolific three point shooting team. They led the league in threes made and three point percentage, and were second in attempts. They had shooters surrounding Payton and post-player Vin Baker like Hersey Hawkins, Detlef Schrempf, Dale Ellis, and one of the first of the perimeter bigs, Sam Perkins.
The Sonics won game one in a 108-83 blowout. The Wolves came out looking scared and over matched, and trailed by 21 at halftime. The Sonics cruised to victory after that, and it appeared that the Wolves were not ready to compete at this level.
And then we got this:
Awesome. Stephon Marbury and Terry Porter combined for 46, Sam Mitchell was banging in jumpers, and the Wolves, led by Anthony Peeler(!) grabbed 20 offensive boards. Kevin Garnett, who was in foul trouble much of the game, made several huge defensive plays late and the Wolves emerged with a 98-93 win, their first ever in the post-season.
This was vintage Marbury, who was never quite as good as I wanted him to be—too inefficient—but he attacked the rim with ferocity. Rebounding was that Sonics’ team Achilles heel, and it bit them this night, with the Wolves extending key possessions late in the game with offensive boards.
It was one of the great moments in franchise history.
Another would come back at Target Center in game three, when the Wolves won their first home playoff game and took a 2-1 lead in this best of five series. It looked like they might win their first playoff series, but it was not to be. They dropped a close one at home in game four, and ran out of gas in the second half of game five back in Seattle, and that was that.
But April 26, 1998, will be remembered for the first taste of post-season victory.