EditorsNote: rewords lede; removes repeated first references to Butler, Towns and Teague
Jimmy Butler scored 31 points and Andrew Wiggins added 18, including two huge free throws with 14.6 seconds to play in overtime, as Minnesota outlasted the Denver Nuggets 112-106 on Wednesday in Minneapolis during the regular-season finale for both teams, granting the Timberwolves the last Western Conference playoff spot.
Minnesota earned the eighth seed in the West and is in the postseason for the first time since 2004. The Wolves will play the top-seeded Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs.
Denver, which had won six straight games to force this winner-take-all contest, was eliminated from playoff contention. The Nuggets have not played in the postseason since the 2012-13 season.
After trailing the entire second half, Denver pulled even at 99-99 on a Jamal Murray 3-pointer with 2:51 to play. Butler hit a jumper to push the Timberwolves back to the lead, but that basket was immediately answered with a layup by Murray with 1:59 remaining.
The two teams had three empty possessions each down the stretch, sending the contest into overtime and sending the already pressure-filled atmosphere to an even higher level.
A 3-pointer by Will Barton with 3:15 to play gave the Nuggets their first lead in the game since midway through the first quarter. Karl-Anthony Towns responded with a pair of free throws, but Paul Millsap’s jumper at the 2:28 mark sent Denver back in front at 106-105.
Jeff Teague just beat the shot clock with a floating jumper to push the Timberwolves back in front at 107-106 with 1:19 remaining, and Butler made one of two free throws with 40.3 seconds to play to push the lead to 108-106.
Andrew Wiggins then hit two huge free throws with 14.6 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game, and Butler finished off the Nuggets with two more free throws.
Towns added 26 points and 14 rebounds for the Timberwolves, while Wiggins hit for 18 points and Teague scored 17 for Minnesota.
Denver’s Nikola Jokic led all scorers with 35 points, with Barton hitting for 24, Murray pouring in 20 points, and Gary Harris and Millsap racking up 10 points each for the Nuggets. Jokic also took 10 rebounds.
The Timberwolves led 62-54 at halftime as Towns and Butler each poured in 16 points in the first half. Barton paced Denver with 16 points and Jokic added 13 over the first two quarters.
Minnesota has won the past three games with Butler back in the lineup after he missed 17 games following knee surgery.
—Field Level Media