The Minnesota Timberwolves are headed back to the NBA Playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in nearly 20 years.
After falling to the L.A. Lakers 108-102 in overtime Tuesday night, the Timberwolves got one more chance to keep their season alive Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. They did that, and then some. The Timberwolves dominated the final three quarters and had six players score in double figures in beating the Thunder 120-95 to advance out of the NBA Play-In Tournament.
The schedule for the Nuggets opening NBA playoff games is set. Denver will play its first opening round game at Ball Arena at 8:30 p.m. and its second home game on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Then they’ll play away games on April 21 & 23. Games 5-7, if necessary, would take place on April 25, 28 & 29.
They learned on Friday night that their opponent will be the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Rookie Christian Braun said on Xfinity Monday Live that he and his Nuggets teammates weren’t too concerned with which team they’ll face.
“Whoever we’ve got, we’ve got,” he said. “We’re not trying to single out a team that we want, or anything like that. Just trying to have ourselves as prepared as we can be. And I think if we take care of ourselves, we’re the most talented team in the league. So if we take care of what we need to take care of and play our best brand of basketball then I don’t think anybody can beat us.”
On Tuesday night the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in overtime, so the Lakers wound up as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and will play in the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Why the Thunder can cover
Minnesota is coming off a crushing loss to the Lakers, blowing a 15-point lead and failing to clinch a spot in the playoffs. The Timberwolves are dealing with a ton of pressure at home against a pesky Oklahoma City team that has covered the spread in six of its last seven trips to Minnesota. The Thunder have also covered in three straight games this season, adding to their 31-20-1 ATS record as underdogs this season.
They kept their season alive with an upset win over New Orleans on Wednesday night, as star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 32 points and Josh Giddey finished one rebound shy of a triple-double. Gilgeous-Alexander has scored 30-plus points in 13 of his last 16 games. Minnesota has a pair of key players questionable for this game with Towns (calf) and Gobert (back) receiving that designation.
Gilgeous-Alexander was slow to get going in the Thunder’s play-in tournament opener, too, before scoring 25 of his 32 points after halftime in the 113-108 win over New Orleans. This time, the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter and then had to leave for treatment a few minutes later after Gobert accidentally elbowed him in the eye as he rebounded and dunked his own miss.
The best player on the floor tonight for Minnesota will likely be Anthony Edwards, who is coming off of a poor performance and will be looking to bounce back. In a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, he shot 3-of-17 from the field which is far from his standard efficiency. On both ends of the floor, he’ll be a huge factor in this game against OKC. To offset the lack of scoring production from Edwards on Tuesday, Mike Conley went 6-of-8 from beyond the arc in what was an uncharacteristically good shooting night for him. The Wolves shot 39% from deep on 41 attempts in that contest, so the perimeter defense will need to be a focal point for the Thunder tonight.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey will likely spearhead the offensive load against Minnesota in this elimination game. They each scored 30 points on Wednesday, but that could be more of a challenge tonight. The Timberwolves have an elite rim protector in Gobert, who clogs the paint.
Both of these Thunder guards generate a ton of points driving to the basket, which makes playing Gobert off the floor or forcing him out of the paint even more important in this one. One way to do this will be getting Jaylin Williams going early. He’s likely who Gobert will defend, and has the ability to space the floor. While Williams shot over 40% from deep in the regular season, he started 0-of-6 from distance on Wednesday. If he’s able to get hot early on, it will set the tone and help space the floor for Oklahoma City’s drivers.
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