DENVER – For the second consecutive April, the Timberwolves played the Nuggets to close out the season. Last year’s game lifted the Wolves to their first playoff berth since 2004. There wasn’t that much on the line Wednesday.
But as they have all season, the Wolves gave maximum effort and gave a Denver team that was playing for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference a scare in a 99-95 Denver win.
The Wolves led by 11 with four minutes to play, only to have Denver make a 12-0 run to take the lead on a Jamal Murray three-pointer with 31.5 seconds remaining. Andrew Wiggins was unable to score on the Wolves’ final possessions. Nikola Jokic had 29 points to lead Denver.
The Wolves were playing without Karl-Anthony Towns, who sat out his second consecutive game because of right knee inflammation. They got productive nights from Wiggins, who finished with 25 points on 11 of 20 shooting, and Cameron Reynolds, who had a career high 19. They increased a fourth-quarter lead to 11 multiple times throughout the fourth quarter, but weren’t able to close it out.
The Wolves finish with the 10th-worst record in the league and a 13.9 percent chance of jumping into the top four of the draft, as well as a three percent chance of getting the top pick.
The Wolves closed out their season Wednesday without their best player on the floor.
Karl-Anthony Towns missed his second consecutive game because of right knee soreness, meaning his season ended with an average of 24.4 points and a career-high 12.4 rebounds.
Interim coach Ryan Saunders said the Wolves wanted to be careful with Towns’ injury. Towns missed five games this season after not missing any in his previous three seasons. Towns missed his first two games of his career after entering concussion protocol following a car crash in February.
Towns’ maximum extension he signed can increase from around $156 million to $190 million if he is selected to an All-NBA team this year.
The Wolves have said they aren’t tanking since being eliminated from the playoffs, but a loss would directly benefit them in the upcoming draft lottery. They entered the night needing a loss to finish behind the Lakers in the standings. If they did, the would finish the season with the 10th worst record and have a 13.9% chance of getting a top four pick and a 3% chance of landing the top overall pick. Finishing with the 11th worst record equals a 9.4% chance of a top-four pick and 2% of the top pick.
Denver still had something to play for Wednesday — a win would clinch the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Jones wants to return
Guard Tyus Jones could be playing his final game for the Wolves on Wednesday. Jones is a restricted free agent after the season. He was open to an extension before the season, but then-president and coach Tom Thibodeau never reached out to Jones and his representatives to talk extension in a meaningful way before the deadline for a new deal passed in October.
“It would be nice to stay here,” said Jones, who is an Apple Valley native. “There’s a lot that goes into it for both parties, so we’ll see what the summer holds and what we can get done.”
Teague has surgery
Guard Jeff Teague underwent a successful “debridement” procedure on his left ankle, the Wolves announced. Teague had the procedure done in his hometown of Indianapolis. A debridement procedure cleans out the ankle of fragments or other issues contributing to pain.
Teague battled injuries all season, playing in just 42 games, a career low but he did average a career-high 8.2 assists. He has a player option for next season worth approximately $19 million that the Wolves expect him to pick up.
For the second time in a month, the Timberwolves played a game in Denver amid inclement weather and tried to rearrange their travel plans to beat it out of town. The Wolves were originally going to stay overnight and fly back Thursday, but they moved up their itinerary to leave town immediately after Wednesday’s finale.
The Wolves got stuck in Denver after their previous game here March 12. They flew the morning of their next game in Utah.