Timberwolves end 13-year playoff drought by beating Nuggets in do-or-die game for both teams

AP Photo/Jim Mone

Eighty-one games and 48 minutes weren’t enough to set the Western Conference playoff field. The Nuggets and Timberwolves needed overtime to complete a pivotal, high-pressure, tight finale.

Finally, Minnesota emerged with a 112-106 victory in the NBA’s first win-in, lose-out regular-season game since the Washington Bullets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1997. For the first time in 14 years, the Timberwolves are in the playoffs.

Even the famously intense Jimmy Butler isn’t rushing to look ahead.

“We’ll enjoy it a little bit,” said Butler, who scored 31 points. “”Me and Cole are going to have some Sassicaia and have a good night tonight.

“We brought this organization, this city back where it needs to be.”

With two All-Stars in Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns (26 points and 14 rebounds) and a present-minded coach in Tom Thibodeau, it was high time for Minnesota to end its 13-season playoff drought (leaving the Kings’ with the longest active at 12 seasons).

Not that Denver made it easy.

The Nuggets won six straight entering tonight – all against winning teams – but it wasn’t enough. Denver (46-36) has the best record of a non-playoff team since the 48-34 Suns in 2014.

Led by the 23-year-old Nikola Jokic (35 points and 10 rebounds), the Nuggets are ahead of schedule. But that’ll be of little solace tonight.