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Timberwolves’ Tom Thibodeau ‘proud’ of his players after gut-check playoff-clinching win

Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Wolves

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau was ultimately fond of his players for gutting out a pivotal win over the Denver Nuggets in overtime, clinching the very last spot in the Western Conference playoffs.

The usually compliment-less coach lauded his team for showing that fight he had called for, securing a ticket to the postseason in a 112-106 overtime thriller on Wednesday night.

“I’m proud of the players,” Thibodeau said after the game, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “I think the work that they’ve put in and the growth that they’ve had over the year is something that I respect greatly, and I told them that today. I said, ‘You’ve earned the opportunity. Now we have to act on it.’ They don’t give you wins. You have to go out there and earn it. I’m glad in some ways that we had to win the game and play our way in because you want to earn things. I think that’s important. And to look at where we are today from where we were two years ago, I think it’s been great growth.”

For Karl-Anthony Towns, who secured a big-time rebound in the dying seconds of an overtime battle, this win meant fulfilling a promise made to the late Flip Saunders, who coached him throughout his rookie season.

“It’s a lot of emotions,” Towns said. “It’s a lot of a promise I made to Flip, and I’m glad that I was able to be part of this team that was able to bring Minnesota back to the playoffs. This city deserves it. Minneapolis deserves it, the state deserves it. I’m glad we were able to bring it back.”

Swingman Jimmy Butler emphasized the importance of clinching the playoffs, not only for the fans, but for the franchise, which had been in a 14-year postseason drought.

“It means a lot,” Butler said¬†after leading his team with 31 points. “Not only for the franchise but every guy in this locker room. We work so hard all season. This is the goal that we wanted. No matter what seed we were going to be, we wanted to be in the playoffs. We wanted to compete for a championship. Now it’s all about going in there and [being] the first one to win four games.”

The Timberwolves now have a matchup with the league-leading Houston Rockets that is sure to give them their money’s worth, starting on Sunday night at the Toyota Center.