The Minnesota Timberwolves are officially heading to the 2023 NBA Playoffs after blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder by 25 points on Friday evening. While both Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert showed out in the win, KAT revealed who the true X-factor was in this do-or-die contest.
Via Jon Krawczynski:
KAT on NAW: “X-factor. He’s the reason we won.”
Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Yes, just 12 points, four rebounds, and six assists, but the Canadian instead shined on the defensive end of the floor. He notched three steals and made life very difficult for his cousin, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Thunder star was just 5 for 17 from the field.
“I thought Nickeil did a great job setting the tone on Shai,” Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch said, via The Athletic. “He’s a really tough cover. But we were closing those spaces around him and did a good job of just kinda not really letting him get into a rhythm other than the third (quarter). ”
This was also Alexander-Walker’s first start since arriving at the trade deadline in the D’Angelo Russell blockbuster. With Jaden McDaniels breaking his hand last week, the Timberwolves needed the guard to step up and he certainly did.
“Honestly, it’s like so easy to put pressure (on yourself) or whatever,” Alexander-Walker said. “But I just took a step back. I was just so thankful for that opportunity to start and have that assignment to guard him. It’s a little different because this is somebody I grew up with my whole life. I feel like as far as people, he knows me better than anybody and I know him better than anybody, I could say.”
Needless to say, Alexander-Walker will surely see a heavy dose of minutes moving forward as the Timberwolves now face Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the postseason.
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