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Zulgad: Fun police got it wrong in criticizing how Timberwolves and their fans celebrated victory

Tyreke Evans
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley celebrates during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday, April 12, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

The Timberwolves and their fans received criticism from late Tuesday into Wednesday morning from both national and local media and fans who felt there had been excessive celebration following the Wolves’ five-point victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in a play-in game at Target Center.

The TNT studio crew led the way by joking that the Wolves must had won the NBA championship. Anthony Edwards and Patrick Beverley celebrated by hopping on the scorer’s table as an announced crowd of 17,136 showed its appreciation with thunderous applause following a sometimes ugly but, nonetheless, exciting game.

The common refrain: Act like you’ve been there before. This was only one game and, technically, it wasn’t even a playoff game.

The message to Shaq, Charles and everyone else: Buzz off.

The Wolves’ victory over Los Angeles put them in the postseason for only the second time since reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2004. The fact that an extremely talented and contagiously enthusiastic 20-year-old (Edwards) and a Clippers castoff (Beverley) would lead the celebration shouldn’t surprise or annoy anyone. The fact that the Wolves were able to win after such an ineffective performance by their star player (Karl-Anthony Towns had 11 points) only made it more emotional for those who did contribute.

As for the fans, anyone who criticizes the Wolves faithful for having fun has no understanding of what they put up with for nearly 20 years. Having to celebrate a play-in victory might not be ideal, but it’s certainly justified. Look at the years of ineptitude put forth by this franchise and tell me that you really think fans should have exited Target Center as if nothing happened? Been there before? These people are used to seeing their team’s playoff hopes disappear before Christmas.

The fact this team seems to have built a bond with its fan base made Tuesday’s events even more special. When guard D’Angelo Russell complained about the lack of enthusiasm from Wolves fans earlier this season, it could have gone either way. The fans could have told Russell to mind his own business and pointed out that the Wolves hadn’t exactly held up their end of the bargain when it came to getting an enthusiastic response.

Instead, the team and fans embraced the opportunity and fans now don’t sit until the Wolves have scored their first basket each game. On Tuesday, the seats might have been paid for but they were rarely used as fans booed the officials, chanted “Beat L.A.” and nearly blew the roof off the place when Edwards and Co., made a basket.

The dynamic that exists between this team and its fans is different from 2018 when the Wolves made the playoffs with Jimmy Butler. That team beat Denver in overtime in Game 82 at Target Center to qualify for the playoffs before losing to Houston in the first round of the playoffs. It was shortly thereafter that Butler began making noise about wanting out of Minnesota and what had looked so promising came to an ugly end for Tom Thibodeau. The Wolves were, once again, forced to hit a reset button.

Where Thibodeau was a volatile figure on the Wolves’ sidelines, Chris Finch serves as a calming influence and seems like the father from a 1960s sitcom. Not surprisingly that approach works well in Minnesota and it’s working very well for a Wolves team that will face Memphis in the first round of the playoffs beginning on Saturday. The Wolves’ will play host to Game 3 a week from Thursday.

If the Wolves win that game it’s likely the noise inside Target Center again will be deafening and again will be high. Will there be more ridicule if that’s the case? Perhaps. Fortunately, the Wolves and their long-suffering fans will be having too much fun to care.