Andrew Wiggins helps end Minnesota's 13-year playoff drought — in OT of regular-season finale
When Minnesota traded for Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2014, the franchise hadn’t reached the NBA Playoffs in a decade.
That postseason-less streak continued for three more years before Wiggins played a part in putting an end to if Wednesday night — on the last day of the regular season, and in overtime to boot.
In what amounted to a Western Conference play-in game for the final available spot, the Timberwolves edged Denver, 112-106, in Minneapolis.
It was still a one-possession game in the final 20 seconds of OT until Wiggins, the fourth-year small forward out of Kansas, drained a pair of clutch free throws with 14.6 seconds showing on the clock, pushing Minnesota’s lead to 110-106.
The 74.1-percent career free-throw shooter even managed to deliver after the Nuggets’ Will Barton paid him a visit at the charity stripe — no doubt reminding him about his 3-for-6 night at the line up to that point — just before the freebies.
Wiggins just smiled, laughed and proceeded to knock down both free throws.
“My man Wiggs hit the two biggest free throws of his career,” veteran all-star guard Jimmy Butler said in an on-court interview immediately after the Timberwolves sealed their playoff berth. “This was a team effort.”
The two crucial foul shots came just more than a minute after Wiggins passed to Jeff Teague for a go-ahead jumper.
The 6-foot-8 wing known for his next-level athleticism, as well as often leaving observers wanting more, finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3-for-5 3-point shooting in the victory that pushed Minnesota into the postseason for the first time since 2004.
The win gave Minnesota a 47-35 record for the season and the No. 8 seed in the West. The T’wolves will take on the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs, the Houston Rockets (65-16).