With KAT struggling, Russell, Edwards step for Wolves to beat Clippers

D'Angelo Russell #0 of the Minnesota Timberwolves celebrates as time expires against the Los Angeles Clippers in the fourth quarter during a Play-In Tournament game at Target Center on April 12, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Timberwolves won 10 ((Photo by David Berding/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the L.A. Clippers 109-104 Tuesday night in front of a packed house at Target Center, and they did it largely without their best player.

Karl-Anthony Towns played arguably his worst game of the season with a playoff spot on the line. He watched the last 7 minutes, 34 seconds of regulation from the bench after fouling out. Towns didn’t make his first field goal of the night until there were less than eight minutes to play in the third quarter.

He finished with 11 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes, after missing his first seven shots from the field. The Clippers were physical with him, and flustered him. He complained to officials about every foul called on him, and every non-whistle as he tried to score.

Towns’ absence meant other players had to be stars. Anthony Edwards loved the moment, scoring 30 points. The other star Tuesday night? D’Angelo Russell. He finished with 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including 3-of-5 from the perimeter.

Russell entered the night knowing the Clippers were going to play physical with Towns and try to rattle him. It was on other players to pick up the offensive slack.

"I was talking to KAT, I was saying you’ve got to realize all season you’ve been dominating these teams. The team gets one chance to beat us, they’re going to say what can we take away? They did a good job of doing that," Russell said. "Our preparation going into this game was huge. Our group responded well, everybody played a part."

Russell was especially big in the second half, as he and Edwards took over the scoring load after Towns fouled. The two fueled a 16-2 run that gave Minnesota the lead in the fourth quarter, after trailing by seven when Towns went to the bench for the night. the Timberwolves ended the game on a 26-11 run after trailing 93-83 with 8:54 to play.

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Russell’s biggest shot of the night came on a 3-pointer in transition, which give the Timberwolves a 97-95 lead. They didn’t give up the lead the rest of the game. His mentality? Be aggressive.

"I was going to run out of bullets before I felt like I didn’t play a part in it. Teams try to do that, they try to take KAT out. We knew that going into the game, so our preparation was all about how we’re going to play without him. I thought our group responded well," Russell said.

Russell came to Minnesota in the blockbuster trade a little more than two years ago that sent Andrew Wiggins to the Golden State Warriors. With the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs on the line, Russell hit big shots at the biggest moments, when the spotlight was brightest.

If the 29 points wasn't enough, Russell added five rebounds, six assists, three steals and had just one turnover in 37 minutes. He also made 6-of-8 at the free-throw line.

"He was awesome. He loved the big moment," Timberwolves’ coach Chris Finch said.

The Timberwolves now get ready to face the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies in a best-of-seven series. They’ll need all three of Towns, Russell and Edwards at their best to pull off the upset.