MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell arrived 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 defend 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.
ADJUST WITH IT
The Wolves trailed 45-38 when Towns drew his fourth foul with 3:48 to go before halftime, but there was a delay of less than a minute after a woman in the crowd snuck onto the court during a dead ball at the other extreme. Organizing an animal rights protest, she taped her hand to the hardwood along the baseline and lay down before security could pull her away.
The Timberwolves took advantage of the extended layoff. Russell hit two midrange floaters and a 3-pointer over the rest of the half to help them take a 53-51 halftime lead.
The most central figure in this matchup might have been Beverley, the relentless defender and rabble-rousing ace who spent the last four seasons with the Clippers.
The NBA announced a $25,000 fine for Beverley shortly before kickoff for his “improper conduct” in Minnesota’s last game toward referee David Guthrie, at whom he yelled, “You’re trash!” on his way off the court after he was ejected for a second technical foul.
Beverley also received a technical in the third quarter of this game, after fighting with Marcus Morris Sr. And more importantly, he had seven points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
“When he’s in that mode, he turns the team on,” George said. “Turn on the sand.”
Clippers: Backup shooting guard Luke Kennard, their fifth leading scorer, stayed home with a hamstring injury.
Timberwolves: Backup forward Taurean Prince was out with a swollen knee.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
Clippers: Host the winner of San Antonio-New Orleans on Friday night. The Spurs play the Pelicans on Wednesday night in an elimination game.
Timberwolves: Game 1 in Memphis is Saturday afternoon.
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