Taj Gibson's miracle helps ends Timberwolves drought

Taj Gibson's strip was maybe the most important play of the whole NBA season.

Taj Gibson's strip was maybe the most important play of the whole NBA season. NBA/Timberwolves, Twitter

The Minnesota Timberwolves are back in the NBA Playoffs. 

The Wolves beat the Denver Nuggets 112-106 in overtime, reaching the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2004, and  winning one of the highest-pressure and most-watched regular season games in recent NBA history.

If Minnesota won, it qualified for the playoffs; if it lost, it didn't, and Denver did. The game lived up to its hype. 

Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds, and barely laid a foot wrong. Jimmy Butler, ostensibly bouncing back from a bad knee injury, played 42 minutes and scored 31 points. Andrew Wiggins made the two most high-pressure free throws he's shot as a pro.

And yet, Timberwolves fans will always remember this one scoreless moment at the end of regulation, when Denver's Nikola Jokic had a chance to knock Minnesota out of the playoffs with one final shot. 

Jokic, who'd been held quiet when the game started, had exploded in the second half, with 17 points in the third quarter alone. The Wolves could not guard him. 

With about five seconds left and the score tied 101-101, Jimmy Butler took a difficult fadeaway shot, and missed. Denver called timeout, and ran a play to get the ball in to Jokic. 

Then this. 

Jamal Crawford missed a long 3-pointer that would've won the game in regulation, and these evenly matched teams fittingly played an overtime.

Butler, Jeff Teague, and, crucially, Wiggins on the free throw line, accounted for 11 points in overtime, and Minnesota's 14-year absence from the postseason ended.

The Timberwolves' win secured the eighth place in the Western Conference, setting up a nightmare first-round series with the first-place Houston Rockets.

Taj Gibson finished with 35 minutes, eight points, six rebounds, two steals, one block, and five fouls. Gibson's team qualified for the playoffs for the eighth time in his nine NBA seasons.