LaMelo Ball Credit: Bill Moore photo

The celebration at the Target Center in Minneapolis on Tuesday night after the No. 7 seed Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the No. 8 seed Los Angeles Clippers 109-104 to secure a spot in the playoffs was reminiscent of an NCAA Final Final four triumph. Former Clipper Patrick Beverley, now the emotional leader of the Timberwolves, catalyzed the pomp and circumstance.

“Man, I wanted this one so bad,” said the spirited point guard. “This is just the icing on the cake, the cherry on top…I told you we were going to the playoffs…y’all looked at me like I was crazy when I first said that. I f—ing told y’all.”

The Wolves, despite a frustrating night from their best player, All-Star Karl Anthony Towns, who fouled out after playing only 24 minutes and scoring 11 points, overcame a fourth quarter deficit to move on to face the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies. It was fitting that the game had the feel of March Madness. The Wolves’ leading scorer on the night, 21-year-old guard Anothony Edwards, would be a junior at the University of Georgia if he hadn’t decided to enter the draft after his freshman year.

It was a wise choice as Edwards became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft and was sensational in scoring a team-high 30 points. Twenty-six-year-old D’Angelo Russell, the No. 2 overall selection in 2015, added 29 impactful points for the young and rising squad. Tomorrow, the Clippers, who were paced by Paul George’s 34 points, will host the winner of last night’s game between the Western Conference’s No. 9 seed New Orleans Pelicans and the No. 10 seed San Antonio Spurs.

Whichever team emerges victorious will be the West’s No. 8 seed and face the conference’s No. 1 seed Phoenix Suns in the opening round. Two of the NBA’s best point guards battled last night when Trae Young and the East’s No. 9 seed Atlanta Hawks took on LaMelo Ball and the No. 10 seed Charlotte Hornets. Whoever came out of that game on top will travel to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers tomorrow with the winner of that game advancing to meet the No. 1 seed Miami Heat in the first round.

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