The Minnesota Timberwolves were sitting around the three-four spot in the Western Conference before losing star Jimmy Butler for an extended period of time. Their playoff hopes came down to the final day of the regular season, but the T'Wolves found their way in with a 112-106 overtime win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. Butler led the way with 31 points, while Karl-Anthony Towns had a double-double of 26 points and 14 rebounds on the night. The win snaps a 14-year drought since Minnesota's last playoff appearance, snapping what was the longest current playoff drought in the NBA. The final play-in game was forced by the Nuggets' recent six-game win streak, and was the first play-in game on the final day of the season in 21 years. The combination of Butler and Towns helped overcome Nikola Jokic's monster performance, as he finished with 35 points and 10 rebounds. Although, he did miss six of his last eight shots, as the Nuggets missed the post season for the fifth consecutive season. Andrew Wiggins chipped in with 18 points for the Timberwolves, who will battle the Houston Rockets as the eight seed in the playoffs, beginning on Sunday.
Sixers, Blazers Clinch Three Seeds
There were plenty of positioning to be decided on the final day of the regular season in regards to seeding in the postseason. That included the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers clinching the three seed with a 130-95 blowout of the Milwaukee Bucks. The win ended the Sixers' season with a 16-game win streak, despite playing without Joel Embiid and JJ Redick. Justin Anderson stepped up to lead the way with 25 points, while Markelle Fultz impressed with a triple-double of 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. This was a welcoming sight for a player that missed 68 games after being selected No. 1 overall in last year's draft. The 52-win Sixers will play host to the Miami Heat in the first round, beginning on Saturday. The Bucks battle the short-handed Boston Celtics beginning Sunday. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers took care of the Utah Jazz, 102-93, to clinch the three seed in the Western Conference. Damian Lillard had 36 points and 10 assists for his 11th double-double of the season in the win. The Blazers were able to shut down star rookie Donovan Mitchell, who had just 17 points and shot just 1-for-8 from three-point range. This comes after he broke the rookie record with 186 three pointers on the season, a record that was held by Lillard. C.J. McCollum added 19 points for the Blazers, who led by as many as 24 on the night, but had to hold off a late Jazz run. Portland will open up the playoffs at home on Saturday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Jazz will settle for the four seed and will host the Oklahoma City Thunder beginning on Sunday night.
Knights, Penguins, Jets Earn Game 1 Wins
The Stanley Cup Playoffs kicked off with three games on Wednesday night, with the story of the night coming in Las Vegas. The Golden Knights earned a win in their first ever playoff game, 1-0, over the Los Angeles Kings. Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves in his 11th career playoff shutout, while Shea Theodore's first-period goal held up on their home ice. It was Fleury's first playoff shutout since last May, when he blanked the Ottawa Senators as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a hard hit contest, with the Kings out-hitting the Knights, 68-59. William Carrier led the Kings with 10 hits, but they could not find the back of the net early on in Game 1. Another shutout that was not nearly as close came in Pittsburgh, as the Penguins blew past the Philadelphia Flyers, 7-0. Sidney Crosby recorded a natural hat trick, The performance was his third career postseason hat trick, helping his team become the fifth to win a series opener Jake Guentzel added a goal and three assists, while Bryan Rust and Carl Hagelin also scored in the blowout win. And the Winnipeg Jets returned playoff hockey to the city and earned a 3-2 Game-1 win over the Minnesota Wild. Patrick Laine tied the game 4:51 in to the third period before Joe Morrow scored the game-winner with 6:13 to play. It is the franchise's first playoff appearance since 2007, where they were swept by the New York Rangers, and that was the only other playoff appearance since they debuted in 1999. All three series will continue with Game 2 on Saturday.