MINNEAPOLIS — Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Karl-Anthony Towns had 26 points and 14 rebounds and the Minnesota Timberwolves ended the NBA's longest-running playoff drought, beating the Denver Nuggets, 112-106, in overtime Wednesday night (Thursday, Manila time) in the first final-day play-in game in the league in 21 years.
When the final horn blew, the capacity and white-towel-waving crowd at Target Center stood to soak in Minnesota's first postseason appearance since 2004. Butler flashed a smile of relief as he hugged his teammates and confetti fluttered above the floor. The fans chanted "MVP! "MVP!" as Butler conducted a postgame interview.
Nikola Jokic locked in a classic big man battle with Towns, finishing with 35 points and 10 rebounds, but he missed six of his last eight shots after the third quarter as Denver's late push fell a few points short.
The Timberwolves are moving on to play, gulp, the NBA-best Houston Rockets in the first round.
Will Barton, who had 24 points, made a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock for Denver's first lead, 104-103, since midway through the first quarter. After Taj Gibson hounded Jokic to force an air-balled 3-point try, Jeff Teague swished a floater with 1:19 left in overtime to put the Wolves back in front for good.
Andrew Wiggins sank two foul shots with 15 seconds remaining to finish with 18 points, and the Wolves were finally on their way to a celebration more than a decade in the making.