The Minnesota Timberwolves clinched the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a resounding 120-95 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in a play-in game on Friday night. The win sets up a first-round matchup against the top-seeded Denver Nuggets starting Sunday in Denver.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the way for the Timberwolves with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocked shots, while rookie Anthony Edwards contributed 19 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. Rudy Gobert, who returned to the lineup after serving a one-game suspension for punching teammate Kyle Anderson, had 21 points and 10 rebounds.
The Thunder struggled from the field, shooting just 36 percent, and were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 22 points, despite a tough shooting night. Luguentz Dort and Jalen Williams each scored 17 points and made four 3-pointers for Oklahoma City.
Minnesota controlled the game from start to finish, outscoring the Thunder 38-21 in the third quarter to take a commanding 95-78 lead. Towns scored 15 points in the first half to give the Timberwolves a 57-47 lead at halftime.
In the fourth quarter, Minnesota continued its assault and scored 14 of the first 16 points to extend their lead to 20 for the first time. Gobert’s dunk on a pass from Kyle Anderson pushed the lead to 109-80 with 7:52 remaining, effectively putting the game out of reach for the Thunder.
The Timberwolves shot 51.8 percent from the field and made 13 of 32 shots from behind the arc. Mike Conley added 14 points for Minnesota, while Nickeil Alexander-Walker had 12 points and Anderson tallied 11.
The loss ends the Thunder’s season, but they can take solace in the fact that they exceeded expectations with a young roster and a bright future ahead. As for the Timberwolves, they will look to continue their momentum into the playoffs and make a run at the NBA Finals.
What did Kyle Anderson say about his incident with Rudy Gobert?
Minnesota Timberwolves teammates Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson have moved past their on-court altercation during Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, with Anderson saying, “We definitely hashed it out. That happens all the time in sports.”
Gobert received a one-game suspension for throwing a punch at Anderson during a timeout in the second quarter. The altercation started during a discussion about defense and rebounding, and Anderson told Gobert to “shut the f–k up, b—h,” which prompted Gobert’s punch.
However, Anderson emphasized that the incident should not be blown out of proportion, saying, “We’re grown men. We’re able to put it behind us. We both want to win. We spoke about it that night, and just seeing how everything is playing out is kind of lame, honestly. We’re teammates at the end of the day.” Gobert also spoke positively about Anderson’s leadership, saying, “Kyle wants to win, and sometimes he’s a little aggressive in the way he talks, but I don’t take it personally. I receive it in a positive way.”
The Timberwolves acquired Gobert last summer in a trade with the Utah Jazz, but the deal hasn’t worked out as the team hoped. They finished eighth in the Western Conference with a 42-40 record, and injuries played a role in their struggles. Now they are in the playoffs and they play against the Denver Nuggets.