Timberwolves Are Growing Up

Photo: Jordan Johnson - NBAE / Getty Images

Karl-Anthony Towns was the Minnesota Timberwolves’ best chance of beating the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, in a must-win play-in game, probably the biggest men’s basketball contest held at Target Center since 2004. But, Tyronn Lou and the Clips were invested in taking KAT away.

And it worked. Karl-Anthony Towns played, possibly, the worst game of his young career. He fouled out at 7:34 remaining in the 4th quarter, with just 11 points and 5 rebounds in 24 minutes. At that time, the Wolves were down seven points (93-86) and the early morning forecast in Minneapolis called for widespread heartbreak. A storm that Minnesota sports fans are quite accustomed to.

But instead, something rather unprecedented happened. D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Patrick Beverley and the unproven young pups grew up. They found their bearings and outplayed, outsmarted a much more experienced opponent down the stretch of, in all reality, an elimination game. And, the skies full of gloom started to clear.

No KAT, No Problem

Without their best player for most of the night, the Minnesota Timberwolves outlasted the LA Clippers and their referee friends. Bev played the defensive instigator/agitator. Ant, DLo and Beas took over on offense and the Wolves willed themselves to a 109-104 victory in front of a home crowd that came “unglued” late in the 4th quarter.

In doing so, the Wolves claim the 7th seed and avoid the Phoenix Suns in round one of the Western Conference Playoffs. Instead, it’ll be the Memphis Grizzlies, who the Wolves have matched up well against all season. It’ll be much more difficult to take KAT away during a 7-game series, like the Clippers did on Tuesday. But last night, Karl-Anthony Towns needed his teammates and they answered the call.

D’Angelo Russell, who scored just three points in the first quarter, ended with 29 points on 10/18 (3/5 3PT) shooting and 6 assists. Anthony Edwards was equally impressive, posting 30 points on 10/21 (5/11 3PT) with 5 rebounds and both guys came through BIG TIME in the clutch.

Pat Bev Means Everything

Unlike Ant and DLo, Patrick Beverley’s contributions from Tuesday won’t show up in the box score. But if you were watching the second half last night, his importance was bursting out of your TV screen. He forced at least two important turnovers in the final minutes and slithered his way deep into the minds of Clipper players.

There was pushing, shoving, yelling and hand-swatting. Technical fouls were called, some even taken back. It was complete chaos, and in the middle of every scrum, was a smiling Pat Bev, who was perfectly within his element. Through the fog of play-in warfare, he provided the young Wolves with a beacon of confidence that allowed them to navigate to a victory.

Afterward, emotion poured out. Beverley is 100% bought in on flipping the narrative for the Timberwolves franchise. He knows what it feels like to be disrespected and, much like other guys on this roster, Pat has a giant chip on his shoulder.

Memphis up next

The Minnesota Timberwolves landing the 7th seed in the Western Conference makes the 2021-22 season a success. This is, by far, the best season this franchise and fanbase has enjoyed since 2004. Young Wolves fans have rarely, if ever, felt that rush of emotion from watching their favorite basketball team in a do-or-die game like they did last night.

Anything the Timberwolves do vs the Memphis Grizzlies in the next round will be a cherry on top of an already great year. Hopefully, that takes some pressure off of Towns and the team plays much more loose than it did earlier in the night vs the Los Angeles Clippers.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan