After blowing a giant lead in opposition to the Lakers of their Play-In opener, the Minnesota Timberwolves got here again dwelling needing to beat the frisky Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder to punch their ticket to back-to-back playoff appearances — one thing the franchise hasn’t accomplished in 20 years.
Early on, it turned obvious that the dimensions differential within the frontcourt was going to be an issue for the Thunder in opposition to Karl-Anthony Cities and Rudy Gobert, who was returning recent off of a one-game suspension for punching teammate Kyle Anderson throughout a timeout. For the second straight sport, Cities led the cost for Minnesota, however not like in L.A., he prevented foul hassle and was capable of maintain the pedal down by means of the second half to steer the Wolves to a dominant 120-95 victory.
The All-Star large man completed the sport with 28 factors (11-of-16 capturing), 11 rebounds, and three assists, because the undersized Thunder merely had no solutions for him when he attacked the basket.
Early on the Thunder have been capable of maintain tempo, as Jalen Williams and Luguentz Dort knocked down 4 threes apiece, however the measurement differential simply was an excessive amount of to beat. They did make a run late within the third quarter to trim the Minnesota result in 10, which led to a really nervous, hushed response from the Timberwolves crowd that was a bit nervous they is perhaps witnessing one other collapse.
Anthony Edwards, who bounced again from a dismal sport in L.A., stemmed the tide with a pair of massive buckets in succession, easing the stress within the constructing and finally proving to finish the Thunder’s run. He completed the night time with 19 factors, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists, reasserting himself in a giant manner.
Gobert likewise had a giant night time in his return, with 21 factors and 10 rebounds, together with essentially the most surprising play of the night time during which he scooped a free ball, dribbled behind his again, and completed on the rim.
The exclamation level of the sport fittingly got here from the 2 large males, as Cities fed Gobert on an alley-oop in transition to punctuate a dominant efficiency.
After a thriller on Wednesday in opposition to New Orleans during which they consistently discovered a solution for each Pelicans run, the Thunder simply didn’t have it in them in opposition to the Wolves. Their lack of measurement within the center was painfully evident in opposition to Cities and Gobert, who Timberwolves followers need to be thrilled to see really punish a measurement mismatch constantly and completely for a full sport. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander completed with 22 factors, however the Wolves made life onerous on him all night time, as he was simply 5-of-19 from the sector. His toughness was on show although, as he returned to the sport after taking an inadvertent elbow from Gobert that left him with a nasty shiner on his proper eye.
Williams and Dort chipped in 17 factors, however OKC simply didn’t have the offensive firepower on this one. Minnesota acquired a balanced assault, led by their three stars however with help from Mike Conley (14 factors), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (12 factors and terrific protection on his cousin, SGA), and Kyle Anderson (11 factors off the bench).
The Thunder transfer into an offseason with much better vibes than any of the opposite groups which have exited the Play-In alongside them, as their look was a shock and with Chet Holmgren coming into the fold subsequent 12 months together with extra younger expertise through their many draft picks — and the chance that that is the summer season a few of these get cashed in for veteran assist in trades — there’s actual optimism in regards to the rapid future in Oklahoma Metropolis.
The Timberwolves, in the meantime, keep away from catastrophe and get a a lot wanted good vibes win to construct momentum into the playoffs, the place they’ll journey to Denver on Sunday to face Nikola Jokic and firm in a really troublesome sequence. Nonetheless, they’ve the expertise to make issues attention-grabbing in opposition to Denver supplied they will put all of it collectively on a nightly foundation. That’s removed from a assure given how their season has gone, however they’ll have a puncher’s probability and can journey a wave of positivity after a dominant win over OKC.