There are special moments in sports that make us feel a little bit more alive. Moments like the Minneapolis Miracle can capture the attention of an entire state and bring millions of people together. Whatever form it may take, everyone knows a special moment when they see one.
Wednesday night brought an unforgettable memory on the last day of the grueling 82-game regular season. The Wolves beat the Nuggets in overtime and ended a miserable playoff drought that has hung over the franchise like a dark cloud rolled permanently across the sky.
These are the significant moments Wolves fans have been dying for since the days of Kevin Garnett. They’ve been sticking around through the darkness for games like last night. An arena full of nervous energy came alive in the night as white towels waved in unison from start to finish, from courtside to the furthest corners of the upper deck. Look up in the corners of any stadium and you will see how a team is doing. Are there any people there? For once, on the most important night in what feels like an eternity, there were. And they were loud and enthusiastic and desperate for the season not to end.
These are the moments that a franchise comes together in a meaningful way to move forward towards the future instead of dwelling on an unchangeable past...
“There was a lot of emotion,” said an obviously ecstatic and relieved Karl-Anthony Towns, who will finally get his first taste of the postseason.
“I was just talking to our security guy and I was telling him that my parents were crying, everyone was really excited. I’m excited but it’s hard to adjust to pure excitement right away because in game mode you always feel like there’s another 30 seconds. I’ll probably fall asleep tonight and wake up in the middle of the night and start crying because it will hit me what happened.”
With an army of reporters and cameras surrounding him, Jimmy Butler was asked how long the Wolves would take to enjoy the moment.
“We’re damn sure going to enjoy tonight,” Butler said, honest as usual. “I’m going to tell you that right now. But Thibs is going to go … I don’t know if he’s going to sleep tonight. That’s the scary part. [Thibs will] put everything together so we’re ready to play Houston.”
Andrew Wiggins will also make his playoff debut, along with teammates Tyus Jones, Gorgui Dieng, and Nemanja Bjelica. It has taken four seasons to arrive at this point and Wiggins has seen enough change for an entire NBA lifetime along the way.
“It means a lot,” Wiggins said with a giant smile from ear to ear after Taj Gibson finished yelling across the locker room at him in laughter over Will Barton’s late-game trash talk. It was aimed at throwing Wiggins off as he stepped to the free throw line for the biggest shots of his career.
“We’ve been at it for a long time,” said Wiggins. “This is what Flip first wanted when I first came here, to make the playoffs. We’re finally there now. I know he’s up there proud and I know Minnesota’s happy.”
“This definitely feels worth it,” Wiggins continued. “All the battles, the blood, sweat, and tears we’ve had this whole year. It all feels worth it for this one moment.”
IT’S HARD NOT TO THINK ABOUT all of the cold nights walking slowly out of Target Center scrolling through my phone reading an endless sea of negative tweets. Too many nights have passed by to even count how many times I’ve asked myself the same question: When is this going to change?
Last night is a moment many Wolves fans have always held out hope for. Eventually, one day, the team would make the jump to the playoffs, be relevant once again, and experience lasting moments that wouldn’t soon fade away. Moments they can look back at years down the road and talk about.
Was this final win to end the playoff drought a stepping stone to a brighter future of NBA basketball in Minnesota, or was it more of an exorcism ridding the dark cloud hovering over Target Center? At this point, does it even matter?
The Wolves are going to a place they haven’t been in the prior 13 seasons. A home game with the season on the line was absolutely nuts for the first time in a long time, and it will be again at least two more times. That feels damn good. That’s what matters most.