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Wolves 109, Clippers 104: No More Play-In Around

Wolves back? Wolves back.

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Clippers at Minnesota Timberwolves Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

For just the second time since 2004, the Minnesota Timberwolves are headed to the NBA playoffs.

Let’s recap a truly historic night at 600 N 1st Avenue.

The Good

Where do you even start after a game like that? D’Angelo Russell? Patrick Beverley? Anthony Edwards? Chris Finch? The fans? GLUE GIRL!?

Despite being favored by three points against the Los Angeles Clippers, the overall vibe entering Tuesday night’s game was that of a feisty young team trying to erase years — hell, maybe even decades — of franchise malpractice. The Joe Smith deal. The David Kahn years. Stephen Curry. Jimmy Butler. The list goes on and on and on.

But on Tuesday night in downtown Minneapolis, no one in the arena nor on the court gave two shits about David Kahn. Nor did they care about what happened with Jimmy Butler. The only thing that mattered to the 15 players in white and blue uniforms (as well as the 17,000 or so fans in attendance) was delivering on a promise that their leader — both on and off the court — made just a handful of months ago when he arrived in Minnesota after essentially being salary dumped by the same team who now stood in his way.

And deliver they did.

Led by Patrick Beverley (as well as Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell — more on them in a second), the Minnesota Timberwolves knocked off the Los Angeles Clippers 109-104 and advanced to the (real) NBA playoffs where they will square off against the Memphis Grizzlies. Tuesday night’s game had a bit of everything — missed calls, foul trouble, highlight dunks, clutch threes, Jimmy Goldstein, elite coaching adjustments, on-court protests, shoeless Glen Taylor — literally everything.

Back to Beverley for a second — the veteran leader of the Timberwolves finished with 7 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block, and it was clear from the opening tip that THIS game against THIS team meant so, so much to him. Hell, hours before the game even tipped off, Beverley sprinted onto the court for his pregame routine and started screaming random things at a nearly empty arena.

The energy exerted by Beverley in this game — and really this entire season — finally leaked out after the final whistle, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the coolest sports-related moments I’ve ever witnessed:

In typical Pat Bev fashion, he had a few additional things to say AFTER the game was over:

While Beverley’s leadership may have pushed his team over the finish line, it was the play of his two backcourt running mates that helped put the Timberwolves in position to secure the victory.

D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards combined Tuesday night for 59 points on 51% shooting, including 8-of-16 from beyond the arc. Considering the circumstances, I think you could argue that two of Minnesota’s “big three” played their best games in a Timberwolves uniform at a time when their team needed them the most. In addition to his 29 points, Russell also dished out six assists, grabbed five rebounds, and had three steals all while turning the ball over just once.

Russell’s on-court performance was matched only by his off-court performance, where he remained level-headed during times of chaos and seemed to be the calming influence (especially in the first half) when it appeared that the rope was beginning to slip. As the game drew closer and closer to the finish line, it was Mr. Ice In His Veins himself who snatched the life out of the Clippers with one clutch shot after another:

The D’Angelo Russell for Andrew Wiggins trade will obviously go down as one of the most talked about transactions in franchise history, but without Russell’s steadiness both on and off the court Tuesday night, there’s simply no way the Timberwolves would have secured their second trip to the playoffs in over 18 years. Never too high, never too low.

Last but not least — Anthony Edwards. The 20-year old from Atlanta, Georgia entered Tuesday’s matchup against the Clippers without much (if any) big game experience. Edwards’ college team (University of Georgia) never advanced to the NCAA tournament during his time there, and prior to tonight’s game there hasn’t been much meaningful basketball played in Minneapolis since ANT’s arrival.

In other words, Tuesday was the biggest game of Anthony Edwards young career. Much like Patrick Beverley and D’Angelo Russell, ANT Man delivered (and then some).

Edwards has been in Minnesota now for just under two years, and when you consider just how much has transpired (both with this team as well as the world) during that time, you can sometimes forget just how young this kid still is. Hell, after the game when he tag-teamed his postgame media availability with Patrick Beverley, ANT was forced to chug yellow Gatorade while his teammate practically showered in Bud Light:

My point here is pretty simple — Anthony Edwards is 20 years old. TWENTY. And in the biggest game of his young life, on the biggest stage he’s ever played on, all he did was lead his team in scoring and more importantly, help lead his team to the biggest win they’ve had in years. Anthony Edwards is the real deal. He’s the future of this franchise. Hell, he may even be the future of this league.

He truly is the one, Jack.

The Bad

It’s difficult for someone like me to draw much negativity or “bad” from a moment like Tuesday night, but in the case of Karl-Anthony Towns, I have no real choice. While guys like Russell and Edwards played quite possibly their best game in a Timberwolves uniform, KAT unquestionably played his worst. Towns played just 24 minutes and finished with 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting, but the storyline with him was once again his inability to control himself from committing fouls.

Don’t get me wrong — the officiating crew did their best to leave their mark on Tuesday night’s contest, but anyone who watched the game could see that KAT didn't do them (nor his teammates) ANY favors by how he handled himself on both ends of the floor. I truly cannot remember a time where a star player had four fouls in the first half, or five fouls in the third quarter, but KAT successfully accomplished both of those feats as Chris Finch tried to roll the dice with his big man earlier in the game.

Luckily for Finch (and the Timberwolves), Minnesota was able to somehow, someway win their biggest game in years despite their best player playing his worst game as a professional. It’s legitimately bananas that KAT could play so poorly and yet this team could still scrap and claw their way to a “W,” but that’s exactly what happened against the Clippers.

How will KAT respond moving forward? If you know anything about Karl, you know that he hears EVERYTHING. He definitely heard the Inside the NBA crew crushing him at halftime and postgame. He sees the tweets from national media members fileting him for his on-court antics. He hears the rumblings locally about how he almost cost his team the game.

I thought Chris Finch summed it up pretty well after the game when discussing KAT’s struggle against the Clippers:

We tried to get KAT a little bit involved, we told him he had to find his stuff in the flow right now. We didn’t want to risk upsetting the rhythm we were building, and he was great with that. He went and got a couple putbacks. But this night is about his teammates – that’s why you have a team because a lot of other people step up.

But this night is about his teammates — that’s why you have a team because a lot of other people step up.

That’s exactly what happened Tuesday night at 600 N 1st Avenue. D’Angelo Russell stepped up. Anthony Edwards stepped up. The fans stepped up. Even Glue Girl stepped up (before ultimately squatting down to superglue her body parts to the hardwood). That’s why you have a team because a lot of other people step up.

And against the Clippers on the biggest stage of the season, step up they did.

Game Highlights