Timberwolves Wrap: A Buzzer-Beating Win Over Thunder

Mar 11, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) reacts after a play against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) reacts after a play against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

Final. 96. 149. 99. 86

The Timberwolves played the Oklahoma City Thunder tough on Friday night, weathering blows down the stretch and eventually emerging victorious on a Ricky Rubio game-winner.

Indeed, you read that opening sentence correctly. The Timberwolves defeated the Thunder, on the road, in a close game, on a virtual buzzer-beater, by Ricky Rubio. All of these things are true.

The Wolves continued their recent trend of playing extremely well to open a game as the starters once again outplayed their counterparts. Minnesota outscored Oklahoma City by a margin of 24-21 in the first quarter, but it was the starters that built a double-digit lead before some shoddy bench play handed most of it right back.

Sam Mitchell largely continued his hockey-style lineup swaps, with the Wolves ending the first quarter and beginning the second with all bench players. It seems like a silly thing to do; Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Rubio are all playing heavy minutes of late anyways, so why not stagger the playing time of your best players?

The second quarter was the Wolves’ worst, but they managed to trail by only three points at halftime. The third quarter was more of a slog from both teams, with the Thunder expanding their lead by just one heading into the final frame.

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The fourth quarter of this tilt was spectacular, and one of the best stanzas of basketball that Wolves fans have enjoyed this season. While it was a sloppy game from a turnover perspective, (the Thunder had an ugly 24 on the night), the fourth quarter brought exciting up-and-down play and a number of lead changes.

The Timberwolves trailed by a score of 80-73 after a Randy Foye three-pointer at the 8:32 mark, but the visitors went on a 6-0 run after a timeout and hung within two possessions from that point on.

A Zach LaVine three with four minutes remaining put the Wolves on top by a single point, and the two teams went back and forth until the final minute. A Steven Adams offensive foul gave the Wolves the ball with 50 seconds left and trailing 94-92.

Towns, who only had 13 points at the time, hit a tough floater in the lane to tie the game, and after an Anthony Morrow miss, hit an even tougher turnaround jumper from about 12 feet with Kevin Durant guarding.

The Thunder scored on a weird goal-tending call that was reversed after review, but they awarded points to the Thunder on Steven Adams’ put-back as it came prior to the initial whistle. It was a horrible sequence for the officials, but they were put in a tough spot based on the current instant replay regulations.

The Wolves had the ball in a tie game with 10.8 seconds remaining. Wiggins received the in-bounds pass and held the ball before going into a screen-and-roll with Towns. He dribbled right, pulling the entire Thunder squad deep into the paint to defend the threat, but passed out to a wide-open Ricky Rubio behind the arc on the wing.

Rubio drained the three over a recovering Kyle Singler. The shot had beautiful arc, and Rubio hit it with cold-blooded confidence.

There was 0.2 seconds remaining on the clock, but without time to catch-and-shoot, the game was over.

Tweets of the Night

Star of the Night

Gorgui Dieng – 25 points (7-12 FG, 0-1 3P, 11-11 FT), 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals, one assist

It’d be easy to say that Rubio was the player of the game, of course, Andrew Wiggins and his 20 points and game-winning assist wouldn’t be a bad option, either. And don’t forget Towns’ fadeaway jumper over Durant to give the Wolves a late lead.

But Dieng was consistently great all evening long. Overshadowed in Towns’ two huge buckets in the final minute and Rubio’s game-winner were the six consecutive free throws that Dieng made that helped set up the exciting finish to the game.

Dieng was 11-of-11 from the charity stripe on the night and was active in the paint throughout the game. He was absolutely the unsung hero in this one.

Notable Timberwolves Lines

Ricky Rubio – 13 points (4-9 FG, 3-6 3P, 2-2 FT), 12 assists, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, zero turnovers

Karl-Anthony Towns – 17 points (8-15 FG, 1-2 FT), 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, one steal, 3 turnovers

Andrew Wiggins – 20 points (8-19 FG, 2-5 3P, 2-4 FT), 5 steals, 4 assists, zero rebounds, 3 turnovers

Who’s Next?

Does it even matter? Can we just watch this game over and over again instead of playing out the schedule?

The Wolves will enjoy another pair of off days before taking on the Phoenix Suns at 9 p.m. Central Time on Monday night. Then the road trip will continue in Memphis and Houston before a return back to Target Center to host the Golden State Warriors on Monday the 21st.

Next: No Frills Wolves Podcast: Potential Off-Season Roster Moves

Monday is an outstanding chance for the Wolves to build a modest winning streak as the Suns have quickly become one of the sorriest teams in the league. In the meantime, we’ll keep your weekend as Wolves-filled as possible.