The No. 8 seed Minnesota Timberwolves were unable to overcome the No. 7 seed Los Angeles Lakers in overtime of their first round game of the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament. They now have a matchup with the No.10 seed Oklahoma City Thunder, who took down the No. 9 seed New Orleans Pelicans. There are a lot of storylines in this one, a majority of them emanating from Minneapolis. From the continuous ballad of Rudy Gobert, to the unfavorable showing from Anthony Edwards against the Lakers, Timberwolves fans might not be very happy. However, they can rest assured, as the Timberwolves will survive and advance to the 2023 NBA Playoffs. A first round matchup with Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets awaits.
Although the Timberwolves will advance, it will not be easy against a Thunder team fueled by two young stars coming off of great performances. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey both scored over 30 points against the Pelicans, surely having Thunder fans salivating. Gilgeous-Alexander is 24, while Giddey is 20, and they are veterans of the starting five. Rookies Jalen Williams and Jaylin Williams are 21 and 20 respectively, while Luguentz Dort rounds out the first unit at 23. The rest of the roster fills out with young budding names, including 2022 No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren who is out due to a foot injury. The Thunder have an extremely bright future ahead of them, and this year's loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves might just be the bump in the road that propels them through the future.
There are 3 reasons the Minnesota Timberwolves will beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and advance to the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Here they are.
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Anthony Edwards “returns” for the Minnesota Timberwolves
Anthony Edwards had an abysmal showing against the Los Angeles Lakers. He was 3-17 from the field, 0-9 from the 3-point-line, and scored 9 points total. He scooped up 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks, but was virtually a non-factor compared to the player he was in the regular season. Against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament finale, Edwards is going to return to form.
Edwards had a career-year this year in this third season in the NBA. He made his first career All-Star Game, while averaging 24.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 79 games. He was a difference-maker all season long and undeniably expected more of himself in the first play-in game. He and the rest of the Timberwolves faithful were stifled by the outcome.
From tip-off Friday, expect to see Edwards aggressive early and assert himself against the Thunder. The Timberwolves will need him to be at the top of his game against a Thunder team that has excellent guard play. This will be a perimeter game, and Edwards needs to be controlling the tempo for the Timberwolves offensively. Minnesota fans will be happy to see him have a typical outing and lead the Timberwolves into the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
Rudy Gobert returns to dominate Oklahoma City Thunder down low
Rudy Gobert is officially questionable for Friday's game against the Thunder with back spasms. He was out against the Lakers to serve an organizational suspension for punching Kyle Anderson in the regular season finale. The two teammates got into a heated altercation on the bench during a timeout against the New Orleans Pelicans, and eventually Gobert took a swipe at Anderson. Gobert was dismissed from the game and ultimately suspended for the first Play-In game. He can return from the suspension Friday, and expect him to fight through the injury.
Gobert has a lot to prove coming off another character-related issue and a not-so inspiring regular season performance. He has already been scrutinized heavily for not living up to the price he was acquired for from the Utah Jazz, so a strong postseason performance could go a long way. Luckily for Gobert, he will return against a team that doesn't have the size to keep him off the boards or avoid him at the rim.
Gobert is never going to be relied on to be a primary scorer, but if he does a good job grabbing rebounds and blocking shots, then the fans are pleased. Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he will have the golden opportunity to feast at both while also propelling the Timberwolves into the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Rudy Gobert is going to return and give the Minnesota fanbase something to cheer about.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have one of the more die-hard fanbases in the NBA, and they always have a good showing at the Target Center. Last year in the 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament, the fans showed out in an upset win by the T-wolves over the Los Angeles Clippers. It was a rowdy scene after the game with Anthony Edwards, and then Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley, jumping onto the scorer's table and celebrating with the crowd. In the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament, a similar crowd will give a similar home court advantage in a Timberwolves win.
It will be an exciting atmosphere Friday in Minneapolis, and Timberwolves fans are going to be in for a competitive game between the Thunder and Timberwolves. The “return” of Anthony Edwards, and the return of Rudy Gobert, will see the Timberwolves beat the Thunder and advance into the 2023 NBA Playoffs.