Edwards, Russell carry Wolves past Clippers in play-in game | NBA

By DAVE CAMPBELL – AP sportswriter

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell came through with a steady stream of clutch marks. Patrick Beverley provided the intensity in an emotional triumph over his former team.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have proven they belong in the playoffs, and this rare breath for this franchise is exactly what they’re headed for.

Edwards and Russell combined for 59 points to help the Timberwolves weather a tough night for Karl-Anthony Towns and beat the Los Angeles Clippers 109-104 in a play-in game Tuesday night.

“The game had to go in a different direction,” said coach Chris Finch. “That’s why you have a team, because a lot of other people are moving up.”

Edwards scored 30 points with five 3-pointers and Russell had 29 points and six assists to send Wolves ranked 7th in the Western Conference and a first-round matchup against Memphis.

“We just use what we have,” Russell said. “We have many parts that complement each other.”

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Paul George finished with 34 points after shooting 2 for 10 in the first half for the Clippers, who have a second chance to make the playoffs with a home game Friday for the No. 8 seed against New Orleans or San Antonio .

Reggie Jackson (17 points) and Norman Powell (16 points) played their part at times, but the Clippers failed to create enough distance as the Timberwolves stuttered for most of the first half.

Towns had just 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting and was fouled midway through the fourth quarter, but his pals were more than up to the challenge.

“I took what the game gave me. That’s what they gave me. They were afraid to guard me and I took advantage of that,” Edwards said.

Jackson’s 3-pointer gave the Clippers their biggest lead of the game at 93-83 with 8:54 remaining, but about 4 minutes later Russell knocked down the green 3-pointer for a 97-95 advantage the Wolves never gave up. He saluted the crowd for the punctuation.

Edwards followed with a tomahawk dunk after being blown by Powell at the top of the button.

“I’m one of the best defenders in the world and nobody can protect him,” said Beverley, who burst into tears during the lively celebration afterwards as Edwards hopped onto the scorer’s table.

Fans were on fire for this fast-paced, rapidly improving team heading into the playoffs for the second time in 17 years, but the excitement died down a bit in the third quarter as George found his groove on a smooth 15 points.

Then Towns fouled with 7:34 to go, less than 2 minutes after he’d just checked back in.

“They played a lot better on the floor without the KAT,” said Clippers coach Tyronn Lue. “They entered us defensively. They turned on a lot more stuff. I just didn’t think we made the right moves.”

The Clippers had success disrupting Towns during the regular season, winning three of the four matchups and losing only in January when George was out, and they spared no energy to attack the two-time All-Star center from all sides. Nicolas Batum was his biggest tormentor, but most of the Clippers were involved.

Towns failed to make a basket in the first half for the first time in more than three years, a 0-on-7 clunker. His only points came from two free throws, and he flashed a sarcastic smile and pumped his first after receiving that call.

Wolves were down 45-38 when Towns was knocked out with his fourth foul at 3:48 before half-time, but there was a delay less than a minute later after a woman in the crowd slammed into the other end during a dead ball had crept into place. While staging an animal rights protest, she taped her hand to the hardwood along the baseline and spread before security forces could pry her away.

The Timberwolves took advantage of the extended break. Russell hit two mid-range floaters and a 3-pointer over the rest of the half to help them take a 53-51 lead at the break.

The most important figure in this duel may have been Beverley, the relentless defender and ace agitator who has spent the last four seasons with the Clippers.

The NBA announced shortly before the tip that Beverley would be fined $25,000 for his “improper conduct” in Minnesota’s final game against referee David Guthrie, whom he yelled, “You’re trash!” on his way off the court after his sacking for a second technical foul.

Beverley also got a technical error in the third quarter of that game after getting in a fight with Marcus Morris Sr. Far more importantly, he had seven points and 11 rebounds, which set a game high.

“When he’s in that mode, it ignites the team,” George said. “It ignites the arena.”

Clippers: Backup guard Luke Kennard, their fifth-top scorer, stayed home with a hamstring injury.

Timberwolves: Backup striker Taurean Prince was out with a swollen knee.

Clippers: Hosted the victor San Antonio-New Orleans on Friday night. The Spurs play the Pelicans in an eliminator on Wednesday night.

Timberwolves: Game 1 in Memphis takes place on Saturday afternoon.

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