In a sea of delirium on the Target Center floor after the Timberwolves’ 109-104 victory over the Clippers, Patrick Beverley, who had nothing left but his undershirt, reunited with Anthony Edwards.
The two shared a long, hard embrace and at the end they happily jumped together towards the bench.
Edwards, who had 30 points in the biggest game of his young career, flexed and shouted for the crowd. Beverley sat back on the bench and was in tears. He then got up, went to hug his family and then drank a large Bud Light while making his post-game remarks alongside Edwards.
“Man, I wanted this so badly,” Beverley said. “I wanted this one so badly.”
Everything that has derailed this Wolves team in the past — fouls from Karl-Anthony Towns, complaints about officiating, a fourth-quarter push from an experienced, playoff-tested opponent — hasn’t. done on Tuesday evening.
As time ticked away for the win, Beverley kicked the ball high in the air, starting the party at Target Center on Wolves’ second-place finish in the playoffs since 2004. They’ll play Game 1 in Memphis on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
“I couldn’t have been more proud of the guys,” said drenched coach Chris Finch, who might have taken a water bath or two after the game. “It’s an emotional win for us. We put it all together. We fought through a lot of adversity, but we kept fighting. Every time it looked like the game was about to slip away from us, we kept hanging on, making enough plays.”
They had to do them without their best player on the pitch for the last 7 minutes and 34 seconds.
D’Angelo Russell picked a good time to have his best moment in a Wolves uniform with 29 of 10 points on 18 shots. Russell has received criticism from fans and the media for his propensity to sit out for matches at a time and for his inconsistency when playing.
On Tuesday, he showed up when Wolves needed him most.
“It’s almost like faith, you know? Russell said. “You have your own faith, but when it comes to being a professional, you have to trust your craft. There are going to be ups, there are going to be downs, whatever, but if you trust it and you commit to and lock it, it comes back, it returns the favor.”
Edwards was there with him at 10 for 21. He scored the first seven points of the night as Wolves got off to a nightmarish attacking start in the first quarter. He attacked when the team needed him and his jumper worked (5 for 11 three-pointers).
“They were afraid to keep me around,” Edwards said. “And I took advantage of it.
Between sips of her beer, Beverley, who had seven points and 11 rebounds, couldn’t help but rave about Edwards.
“Nobody can keep it,” Beverley said. “I’ve been telling him that all year. I don’t care who plays on him. I’ve seen the best defensive guys. I’m one of the best defensive guys on earth. Nobody can keep him. I just keep going to preach that to him and he’s been doing that all season. … This is his time. He deserves all of this. This is his time.
Together, Russell, Edwards and Beverley helped Wolves weather Towns’ ugly troubles and the potential emotional meltdown that has accompanied him in the past.
BOXSCORE: Wolves 109, LA Clippers 104
Towns wore his emotions on his sleeve with every rude call. The Clippers just have his number. They had long bodies that they could throw at him anywhere on the ground. Finch said before the game that he expected “struggle games” between Towns and the Clippers’ frontcourt.
They finally benched him.
“To be honest, it wasn’t KAT’s game,” Finch said.
After Towns committed his fifth foul in the third quarter, he had some choice words for the officials for those who could hear around the Wolves bench. Russell, sitting on an exercise bike nearby, told her to “let it go”. Towns finished with 11 points and five rebounds.
The wolves continued without him throughout the night.
Shortly after Towns committed their fourth foul in the second quarter, they ran after play was stopped for sending off a protester who had tried to stick to the ground. The woman was trying to protest an egg farm owned by Wolves and Star Tribune owner Glen Taylor.
Fans and Wolves were in emotional shock at the time, which brought a different energy to the arena. Oddly enough, that seemed to calm everyone down and Wolves outscored the Clippers 14-6 the rest of the half. Russell had 14 points in the second.
“He was awesome,” Finch said. “He kicked us off in the second quarter with a lot of really smart play. He kind of calmed us down, hit big shots, got the ball moving.”
In the fourth quarter, Wolves had to go over seven minutes without Towns as they led 93-86. They’ve had bigger returns in terms of points this season, but none with such high stakes.
Edwards took the ball on the edge with abandon. Russell hit a huge pull-up three, a shot he struggled with at times, to put them ahead 97-95 with 4:40 to go.
“He hadn’t done that pull-up three in a long time, but we never really told him not to take it,” Finch said. “We wanted him to stay confident. In fact, he surprised me a bit that he took it.”
When the defense split and Edwards went for an undisputed dunk with 4:02 to go, Wolves and the fans could really feel it. They didn’t give up the head once they got it back.
Russell and Edwards provided the offense. The whole team defended.
“Tonight was all about defense,” Finch said. “It was exceptional. We executed the game plan to perfection. We were the most physical team, and that’s what we wanted to be.”
Before the season, they decided to be a playoff team. As Beverley said, few people gave them the chance to be one. But here they are, on their way to Memphis.
“I told you we were going to the playoffs,” Beverley said. “You all looked at me like I was crazy.”