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Timberwolves’ reserves can’t complete comeback in regular season finale

Play-in game set Tuesday night against Los Angeles Clippers

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jordan McLaughlin dribbles past Chicago guard Malcolm Hill in the first quarter Sunday, April 10, 2022, at Target Center in Minneapolis.
Nick Wosika / USA Today Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS -- You would’ve thought Tiger Woods just buried a birdie putt on No. 16 at Augusta with the volume of roars that were reverberating through Target Center on Sunday.

No, Leandro Bolmaro had just hit a triple to cut the Timberwolves’ deficit to 10 in the third quarter of a game that meant absolutely nothing. The latter didn’t matter one bit to those who were part of the full house at Target Center for Minnesota’s regular season finale, which also served as fan appreciation night.

Minnesota (46-36) was locked into Tuesday’s play-in game with the Los Angeles Clippers regardless of the result. Chicago (46-36) had already clinched the No. 6 seed in the East. The Bulls were sans five of their best players, missing the likes of Demar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and Alex Caruso. Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Taurean Prince didn’t play for Minnesota, and Anthony Edwards, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt didn’t see any second-half minutes.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago's Tony Bradley is defended by Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards on Sunday, April 10, 2022, in Minneapolis.
Nick Wosika / USA Today Sports

The same was true for Patrick Beverley after he was tossed after picking up a pair of technical fouls within 16 seconds of one another late in the first half.

It was Nate Knight, Jake Layman, Jaylen Nowell, Greg Monroe, Jordan McLaughlin, Josh Okogie, Leandro Bolmaro and Co. leading Minnesota back from a once-28 point deficit to bring the Wolves back to contention.

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Minnesota had the game within two in the closing seconds, before a loose ball ended up bouncing Chicago’s way, leading to a dunk to ice the Bulls’ 124-120 win Sunday in Minneapolis.

The crowd didn’t care who was on the floor — they just appreciated the effort and competition. The atmosphere that’s been so present over the final half of this season was sustained in a meaningless contest, if not amplified. Every bucket from late in the third quarter all the way through the finish line drew a strong reaction.

MORE MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES COVERAGE:
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Minnesota acquired three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert from Utah in exchange for four first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, along with Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro and Walker Kessler
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Entrenching Gobert in the post defensively would likely help alleviate Towns’ foul trouble concerns and take some pressure off him altogether defensively throughout the regular season
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The 28-year-old is belovingly referred to as “Slo-Mo” — because while the 6-foot-9 forward had a vast skillset, he succeeds in spite of a lack of speed
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“I definitely feel like I’m someone who can play all over the floor,” Moore said on Tuesday morning during his introductory news conference at Target Center. “I can play with anybody.”
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The good news for Kessler is he’s going to get some time to develop early in his career.
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Otherwise, Tim Connelly’s first personnel move in Minnesota will be remembered as a head-scratcher
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Wolves pick Duke's Wendell Moore at No. 26
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The Wolves have the luxury of choosing for help now or the future
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After making the postseason with a young team last season, the Wolves have options on draft night Thursday
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The 7-footer from Minnehaha Academy is a lock to be a Top 3 pick in Thursday night’s draft

That’s perhaps the biggest reason this Wolves’ season was a success, regardless of this week’s upcoming play-in results. Minnesota is likely to win one of two play-in games to secure only the team’s second playoff berth since 2004. But even if it doesn’t, the most important thing the Wolves have done this season is help restore Target Center’s atmosphere.

Minnesota has fallen in love with pro basketball again. That was on full display Sunday night, as fans oozed with enthusiasm as many lesser-known players went toe-to-toe down the stretch.

The crowd noise certainly amped up the competitiveness and performance of those on the floor. Bulls coach Billy Donovan and Timberwolves coach Chris Finch were as engaged late as they will be come the postseason.

It was fun to be at Target Center on Sunday, of all nights — just as it’d been for much of the season. That’s what comes with a winning team that’s moving onto the postseason after doubling up its win total from the year prior. It’s a byproduct of an entertaining squad that led the NBA in scoring this season.

The Target Center crowd proved Sunday it’s more than ready for Tuesday’s titanic tilt for the No. 7 seed in the West. It took one successful season to wake a fan base from its previous state of hibernation.

Forget the Timberwolves’ 46 wins this season, that’s the team’s most impactful victory.

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NBA: Chicago Bulls at Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago's Troy Brown Jr. takes a jump shot as Minnesota's Jarred Vanderbilt defends on Sunday, April 10, 2022, at Target Center in Minneapolis.
Nick Wosika / USA Today Sports

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