MINNEAPOLIS – Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell came in with a steady stream of clutch marks. Patrick Beverley supplied the intensity in an emotional win over his former team.
The Minnesota Timberwolves proved they belong in the playoffs, and that rare air for this franchise is right where they’re headed.
Edwards and Russell combined for 59 points to help the Timberwolves overcome a tough night for Karl-Anthony Towns and beat the Los Angeles Clippers 109-104 in a season opener Tuesday night.
“The game had to go in a different direction,” coach Chris Finch said. “That’s why you have a team, because a lot of other people step up.”
Edwards had 30 points with five 3-pointers and Russell had 29 points and six assists to send the Wolves to the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and a first-round matchup with Memphis.
“Just using what we have,” Russell said. “We have a lot of pieces that complement each other.”
Paul George finished with 34 points after shooting 2-for-10 in the first half for the Clippers, who have a second chance to make the playoffs with a home game Friday for the No. 8 seed against either New Orleans or San Antonio.
Reggie Jackson (17 points) and Norman Powell (16 points) did their part in the stretches, but the Clippers couldn’t create enough separation when the Timberwolves were mumbling for most of the first half.
Towns scored just 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting and drew fouls midway through the fourth quarter, but his cronies were more than up to the challenge.
“I took what the game gave me. That’s what they gave me. They were afraid to defend me and I took advantage of that,” Edwards said.
Jackson’s 3-pointer gave the Clippers their biggest lead of the game at 93-83 with 8:54 remaining, but about 4 minutes later Russell knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer for a 97-95 lead the Wolves never relinquished. He waved to the crowd for the score.
Edwards followed up with a tomahawk dunk after Powell overlooked at the top of the key.
“I’m one of the best defensive guys in the world, and no one can guard him,” said Beverley, who was in tears during the spirited celebration afterward when Edwards jumped on the scorer’s table.
Fans were hyped for this fast-paced, fast-improving team heading to the playoffs for the second time in 17 years, but the hype faded a bit in the third quarter when George found his groove with a smooth 15 points.
Towns then fouled out with 7:34 to go, less than 2 minutes after he had just returned.
“They played a lot better without KAT on the court,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “They put us on the defensive. They lit up a lot more things. I just didn’t think we made the right plays.”
The Clippers had success disrupting Towns during the regular season as they won three of four matchups, losing only in January when George was out, and spared no energy attacking the two-time All-Star center from all sides. Nicolas Batum was his main tormentor, but most of the Clippers stepped in.
Towns failed to make a basket in the first half for the first time in more than three years, an 0-for-7 dunk. His only points came on a pair of free throws, and he flashed a wry smile and pumped his first after receiving that call.