(CTN News) – Despite the Timberwolves winning one do-or-die game on the road, the Oklahoma City Thunder could not repeat that performance two more times in a row.
In the play-in game for the Western Conference No. 8 seed, the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-95 on Friday to clinch the seed and eliminate the Thunder from the playoffs.
As a result of their overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday (L.A. is the seventh seed) – the Oklahoma City Thunder ended the season of the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, giving Minnesota another chance to qualify for the playoffs.
As the Timberwolves went into the half with a 10-point lead, they were also able to knock out Oklahoma City’s top scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander temporarily when they jumped out to a 13-point lead early in the third quarter.
It was inadvertently Rudy Gobert’s elbow that struck Gilgeous-Alexander in the face after he grabbed his offensive rebound. Gilgeous-Alexander remained on the floor for several minutes.
It was just a few minutes later that he returned to the locker room after icing his face with a trainer and that he had developed a shiner on the right side of his face.
After cutting a 16-point deficit down to eight points at one point during the third quarter, the Thunder took off from that point onwards, and within a matter of minutes, Minnesota had increased their lead to 17 points once again.
The Timberwolves were able to extend their lead up to as much as 29 points thanks to a dominant fourth quarter.
All five starters on the team, including Karl-Anthony Towns (28 points), Rudy Gobert (21 points), Anthony Edwards (19 points), Mike Conley (14 points), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (12 points), and Kyle Anderson (11) all had double-digit scoring. As well as Towns and Gobert scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively, they also grabbed 11 and 10 rebounds.
It was the return of Gobert from a one-game suspension imposed by the team after he threw a punch at Anderson during a timeout – Gobert missed the team’s first play-in game after being suspended for one game.
There was a chant from the Minnesota crowd during the closing minutes of the game, “We want Denver.” The crowd got what they wanted.
In the first round of the NBA playoffs, it will be the Timberwolves against the top-seeded Denver Nuggets, and Nikola Jokic will lead the Timberwolves (who may win back-to-back MVP awards for the third straight time) in the first game.