Timberwolves Loss vs Celtics Proved They Belong in NBA Finals Conversation

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Boston Celtics
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves were missing two of their best and most important players in Boston on Wednesday night. But Mike Conley’s rest and Rudy Gobert’s sore hip were the least of head coach Chris Finch’s problems vs the Celtics.

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Not only were the Wolves playing a rare road back-to-back that had them in Orlando for game one and 1,200 miles up the East Coast in Boston for game 2; but Winter Storm Gerri grounded their flight in Orlando on Tuesday night too. So they weren’t able to get to Boston until 1 PM on the day of a game that started at 6 PM.

How about some more excuses? The Celtics, who had their full complement of players, are the best team in the East and improved to 18-0 at TD Garden with Wednesday’s 127-120 win over the Wolves.

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But instead of folding up shop and waving their white flag for a regular season game that meant more in terms of pride than it did playoff implications, the Timberwolves came ready to fight and gave the best team in the Eastern Conference all they could handle, even under some pretty terrible circumstances.

Sure, they fell short in the end but sometimes it’s worth enjoying a back-and-forth heavyweight bout of this magnitude, even if your fighter comes out on the losing end. Especially when you consider that last night was just one of 82 regular season bouts and the Wolves are already a cinch playoff team

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Ant failed as finisher, which was a huge reason why Minnesota couldn’t close the game. He finished with 29 points but had just one made field goal in the 4th quarter and overtime combined, going 1-for-7 with three turnovers in that stretch.

Others in the locker room felt good about their performance vs the Celtics. Edwards, on the other hand, declined to talk to reporters. Look, even the best closers have bad 4th quarters. Anthony Edwards has proven that he’s a closer. That’s the least of anyone’s concerns going forward.

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The rest of the team was pretty damn good and picked Ant up when he disappeared late. KAT had 25 points and 13 rebounds, Naz Reid put up 19 points and 10 rebounds of his own. The offense was smooth for three quarters and the defense played with a lot of fight.

With Gobert and Conley out, Nickeil Alexander-Walker (15 points and 4 rebounds) and Kyle Anderson (17 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) joined the starting lineup and performed admirably. And guess what? Despite this setback, the Timberwolves now stand at 26-11, still on top of the Western Conference.

Once again, this Wolves team reaffirmed its legitimacy as an NBA Finals contender. Taking the best team in the league, undefeated at home, to overtime without two starters on the second night of a back-to-back speaks for itself.

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Sitting atop the Western Conference this late into the season is something no one in their right NBA mind anticipated. But they’ve convinced a lot of pundits out there, including former player and current ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins, who tweeted after the game about just how real the Wolves are.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been silencing skeptics all season and have now established themselves as a significant force, not just for the Western Conference, but in the race for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

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