Timberwolves fans, we put together a list of the most rewatchable moments in their 30-year history. This is part of an 11-part series at SKOR North. We’ve decided to roll out the games/events in chronological order.
[Part 1: Derrick Rose’s Career-High 50 Points]
Minnesota went all-in for the 2017-18 season. They traded a young, up-and-coming star in Zach LaVine, along with Kris Dunn and a first-round pick (who turned out to be Lauri Markkanen) in exchange for Jimmy Butler, reuniting him with his former coach Tom Thibodeau. They also signed Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and Jamal Crawford.
The franchise hadn’t made the playoffs in fourteen years, but making the playoffs was almost expected this season after making the right moves to put them in that position.
Over the course of the season, the Wolves experienced some big ups and downs. They were sitting in third place in the Western Conference on February 23, looking like a lock to get homecourt advantage in a loaded conference. However, that night, as the Wolves lost to the Houston Rockets, Jimmy Butler tore his meniscus. He missed the following seventeen games as the Wolves began scratching and clawing through each game, just trying to survive without Butler.
Bouncing around from third place all the way down to out of the playoff picture in the span of a month, the Wolves were in for one of the biggest games in franchise history on the last day of the regular season. The eighth seed was within reach as they needed to beat the Denver Nuggets at home on April 11.
The Wolves and Nuggets came into this game tied at 46-35 on the season. The winner of the game would clinch a playoff seed, the loser would go home.
After coming out of the gates slow, the Wolves finished the first quarter strong, leading 29-26 after the first frame. They pushed that lead to eight entering halftime after a strong first half from both Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns, scoring sixteen points each.
Fast forwarding to the last seconds of regulation, the game was tied 101-101. Perhaps the biggest play of the whole season came when Wolves forward Taj Gibson stripped the ball away from Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic with 2.0 seconds left as Jokic rose up for a game-winning shot on the baseline. It was a risky play, as Jokic is a master at drawing fouls, especially when opponents reach in on his hands and try to strip the ball away. However, this time, Gibson succeeded.
With less than 2.0 seconds left, the Wolves had a chance to send the Nuggets home, but a poorly drawn up out-of-bounds play led to a missed a three-pointer by Jamal Crawford as time expired, sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, the Nuggets took a 106-105 lead after a Paul Millsap jumper with 2:28 left, which would be the last lead of the game for Denver. Behind a roaring, sold out Target Center, the Wolves took advantage of the home crowd and gained control for the remainder of the game.
A circus shot from Jeff Teague and two free-throws each from Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins sealed the win for the Wolves and sent them to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.