MINNEAPOLIS: Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell combined for 59 points to help the Minnesota Timberwolves overcome a rough night for Karl-Anthony Towns and beat the Los Angeles Clippers 109-104 in a play-in game on Tuesday night.
Edwards scored 30 points with five 3-pointers and Russell had 29 points and six assists to send the Wolves to the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and a first-round matchup with Memphis.
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 on Friday for the No. 8 seed against either New Orleans or San Antonio. Reggie Jackson (17 points) and Norman Powell (16 points) did their part in stretches, but the Clippers failed to put the Timberwolves away when they were struggling through the first half.
Towns had only 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting and fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, but his sidekicks were more than up to the challenge.
Jackson’s 3-pointer gave the Clippers their largest lead of the game at 93-83 with 8:54 remaining, but about 4 minutes later Russell knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer for a 97-95 advantage the Wolves never relinquished. He saluted the crowd for the punctuation. Edwards followed with a tomahawk dunk after blowing by Powell at the top of the key.
The fans were fired up for this fast-paced, fast-improving team that’s headed to the playoffs for the second time in 17 years, but the buzz wore off a bit in the third quarter while George found his groove with a smooth 15 points.
Then Towns fouled out with 7:34 to go, less than 2 minutes after he had just checked back in.
The Clippers have played all season without star Kawhi Leonard while he recovers from a repaired ACL for the injury he suffered in the second round of the playoffs last year, but the recent return of George and Powell from their long-term injuries have helped them come closer to their form of last summer when they reached the Western Conference finals. Powell, in a super-sub role, was a trade-deadline acquisition from Portland.
The Clippers had success disrupting Towns during the regular season when they won three of the four matchups, losing only in January when George was out, and they spared no energy attacking the two-time All-Star center from every which way. Nicolas Batum was his primary tormentor, but most of the Clippers had a hand in it.
Towns failed to make a basket in the first half for the first time in more than three years, an 0-for-7 clunker. His only points came on a pair of free throws, and he flashed a sarcastic smile and pumped his first after getting that call.
Irving, Durant lead Nets past Cavs in play-in for No. 7 seed
New York: Bring on Boston.
That’s the next stop on a recent rise for the Brooklyn Nets, who were in 10th place not long ago but don’t look like an underdog right now.
Kyrie Irving had 34 points and 12 assists, Kevin Durant added 25 points and 11 assists, and the Nets took the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 on Tuesday night in the play-in opener.
The Nets raced to a 20-point lead after one quarter and turned the Cavaliers away time and again to earn a matchup with No. 2 seed Boston in a series that begins Sunday.
“I know that team very well and they know us very well and it’ll be a back and forth,” said Irving, a former Celtics guard, “and once you throw that ball in the air, you’re going to really see some spectacular basketball.”
Irving made his first 12 shots before a 3-pointer rimmed out in the fourth quarter. He finished 12 for 15.
A preseason NBA Finals favorite who sputtered through a turbulent season and were in 10th place entering the last week of the regular season, the Nets have run off five straight wins. With Durant and Irving, they are far more dangerous than the usual No. 7 seed.
And both are willing to give the ball to teammates who are capitalizing when they get it. Bruce Brown had 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, while Andre Drummond scored 16 points.
Brown, who is from Boston, talked about how they can keep doing that against a Celtics team missing defensive anchor Robert Williams. Durant was aggravated when he heard that.
“It ain’t going to be that easy, I’m going to tell you that,” Durant said.
Unless the Nets play like they did in the first quarter.
The Nets made nearly 71 percent of their shots in the period — Irving and Durant combined to make all eight of theirs — and closed the period with a 15-3 spurt that made it 40-20. It was a bigger lead than Brooklyn had in any first quarter during the regular season.
“You can’t give a team like Brooklyn that has championship aspirations and players who have won championships a 22-point lead,” Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Again, give our guys credit for getting back in it. But that’s damn near impossible to overcome.”
Darius Garland scored 34 points for the Cavaliers, who have another chance to earn the No. 8 seed. They will host the winner of the Atlanta-Charlotte game on Friday, with the winner moving on to face No. 1 seed Miami.
Brooklyn and Cleveland both went 44-38 but the Nets clinched the tiebreaker by beating the Cavs at Barclays Center last Friday to finish 3-1 against them. Cleveland were confident it could come back to Brooklyn and win, though it was clear quickly just how difficult that would be.
Irving was 9 for 9 in the first half, with a jumper at the buzzer that made it 57-43.
“I always say about Kyrie in a March Madness, one-game type of situation, he’s a tough guy to bet against,” former Cavs teammate Kevin Love said. “Again, seen this movie before but still — I think that there’s just times where he comes out and plays out of his mind and that’s why he’s a future Hall of Famer. So you just kind of have to tip your hat to him. He hit some really tough, contested shots today.”
The Cavaliers, trying to extend a surprising season that saw them double their win total from a season ago, kept chipping away in the second half. But they would too often miss an open 3-pointer or give up an extra possession on an offensive rebound that the Nets would take advantage of.
Nic Claxton had 13 points and nine rebounds for Brooklyn.
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