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  • Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double Michael Frolik Jersey , so he gets plenty of attention. Ricky Rubio just had a triple-double , earning him some time in the headlines. Donovan Mitchell has been great in his first three playoff games, so the fascination with the rookie star is only growing.

    It’s easy to notice those guys.

    Rudy Gobert should be getting noticed as well.

    Utah is taking a 2-1 lead into their Western Conference first-round series against Oklahoma City on Monday night, and Gobert is probably as responsible for the Jazz being in that position than anyone. He’s controlling the backboards, he’s changing shots, he’s thwarting Westbrook and he’s showing why he’s the likely Defensive Player of the Year.

    ”It makes the guards’ jobs a lot easier,” Mitchell said of the French safety net with the 7-foot-9 wingspan who protects the rim for the Jazz. ”You feel more secure on the wing. … The whole season, I’ve been saying if somebody gets by me, it’s like, `All right, go ahead, try it. Because I’ve tried it. And it doesn’t work.”

    Westbrook probably would agree: He’s 1 for 7 in this series with Gobert waiting at the rim for him.

    There’s two Game 4s on the schedule Monday, with Houston at Minnesota leading off before the Oklahoma City-Utah game. The Rockets fell in Game 3 to the Timberwolves on Saturday, but still lead that series 2-1.

    Westbrook is not happy, and the reigning NBA MVP wasted little time in vowing that things will be different in Game 4. He was talking about slowing down Rubio, but he might be better served getting himself going again. Going back to the regular season, Westbrook hasn’t shot better than 40 percent in any of his last six games – the worst such streak of his career.

    Here’s a look at Monday’s games:

    ROCKETS AT TIMBERWOLVES

    Rockets lead 2-1. Game 4, 8 p.m. EDT, TNT.

    NEED TO KNOW: The Timberwolves bounced back from a 20-point loss in Game 2 with a sellout-crowd-inspired 16-point victory over the Rockets in Game 3 that was the franchise’s first win in the playoffs since 2004. Jimmy Butler had 28 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had 18 points and 16 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were more aggressive than they were in Games 1 and 2. ”I felt like they outworked us, and that should never happen Authentic Mitchell Marner Jersey ,” Rockets guard Gerald Green said.

    KEEP AN EYE ON: The Rockets shooting 3-pointers. They needed 41 attempts to make 15 behind the arc in Game 3, as many as the Wolves swished in 27 tries. Harden was just 3 for 8, his rainbows often drifting to the left, as the Wolves kept up what has been a better-than-usual defensive performance in this series. ”We’re just making it harder on them, making them take tough shots and just trying to find ways to stop a high-powered offense,” Towns said.

    PRESSURE IS ON: Rockets center Clint Capela. After a 24-poin/t, 12-rebound production in Game 1, Capela had only seven points on six shots in Game 3. On the other end of the court, Towns finally got going after two bad games thanks in part to Capela’s defense. The Rockets could use a strong response from the Swiss standout in the attempt to keep the Wolves from tying the series.

    INJURY UPDATE: Butler, who missed a total of 21 games this season due to trouble with his right knee, clutched his left ankle in pain after twisting it late in the first half of Game 3. He didn’t miss any time, though, and didn’t even acknowledge the injury when asked about it in his postgame interview. ”At the end of the day if you tell your mind it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t,” Butler said.

    THUNDER AT JAZZ

    Jazz leas 2-1. Game 4, 10:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.

    NEED TO KNOW: Utah has won each of its last five first-round series as the No. 5 seed, and the Jazz are halfway to extending that streak. The crowd in Salt Lake City was extremely loud on Saturday and will likely be again on Monday. The Thunder are 5-6 in their last 11 games, and no one needs to remind them of how low the success rate is for teams that go down 3-1 in a series.

    KEEP AN EYE ON: Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook from deep. Paul George has been great from 3-point range (15 for 31) in the three games, but Westbrook and Anthony are a combined 9 for 31. The Thunder need to get something going consistently from the perimeter to soften up Utah’s stout interior defense.

    PRESSURE IS ON: Utah. Most would think it’s the team trailing that would feel the most pressure, but Utah has a chance to take total command of the series. A loss would be doubly deflating; not only would the Jazz lose home-court Johnny Gaudreau Jersey Kids , but they would go back to Oklahoma City for Game 5 with the Thunder thinking they have control of the matchup.

    INJURY UPDATE: Westbrook was getting treatment on some sort of upper-body issue in Game 3 and was coy about it afterward, pointing out that most players are ailing at this time of year. But if he’s limited in any way, that’s obviously a huge problem for the Thunder.

    AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this report

    The toughness that Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and the rest of the veterans brought to the Minnesota Timberwolves this season was on display from start to finish.

    Finally, after a 14-year absence, the long-languishing franchise is back in the playoffs.

    Fittingly, it took until the last game and then some to get there.

    Butler scored 31 points, Karl-Anthony Towns had 26 points and 14 rebounds, and the Timberwolves outlasted the Denver Nuggets 112-106 in overtime Wednesday night in the first final-day play-in game in the NBA in 21 years.

    No team in the league had gone longer without a postseason appearance than the Timberwolves, who took Towns with the first overall pick in the 2015 draft and traded for Butler last summer to put themselves in position to return.

    ”I’ll probably fall asleep tonight and wake up in the middle of the night and start crying,” said Towns, who was 8 years old the last time the Wolves were in the playoffs. ”It’ll hit me, what happened.”

    The Nuggets won six in a row to force this elimination game, including a 100-96 decision in Denver last week that was the last time the Wolves (47-35) played without Butler, and went 23-12 over their previous 35 contests.

    Nikola Jokic locked in a classic big man battled with Towns, finishing with 35 points and 10 rebounds, but he missed six of his last eight shots after the third quarter as the valiant finish to this season fell just short. The Nuggets (46-36) haven’t made the playoffs in five years.

    Now it’s the Timberwolves who are moving on to play, gulp, the NBA-best Houston Rockets.

    ”I feel like our effort was outstanding. Theirs was too,” said Will Barton, who had 24 points but shot just 3 for 12 after halftime. ”They just made the plays at the end. Give them credit.”

    Barton’s 3-pointer beat the shot clock for Denver’s first lead Youth Brandon Sutter Jersey , 104-103, since midway through the first quarter. After Gibson hounded Jokic to force an air-balled 3-point try, Jeff Teague swished a floater with 1:19 left in overtime to put the Wolves back in front for good.

    Andrew Wiggins sank two foul shots with 15 seconds remaining to make it 110-106 and finish with 18 points, and the Wolves were finally on their way to a celebration more than a decade in the making. Butler, who has not held back from openly challenging Wiggins and the other junior members of the team to play with more tenacity, walked up to Wiggins before the free throws with some forceful encouragement.

    ”I was like, `Wiggs, I know you can do this,”’ Butler said. ”And he told me to move. He did. He’s like, `Move!’ I’m like, `OK, excuse me.’ And he stepped up and hit both of them. So, from now on, stay in my lane.”

    The Wolves were ahead by as many as 10 points in the second quarter and took a 99-91 lead on Teague’s 3-pointer with 4:26 left in regulation, but just like with this whole regular season the Nuggets wouldn’t go away.

    Jokic answered with a 3-pointer, and Butler missed both of his free throws. Back-to-back jumpers by Jamal Murray, the last one from 3-point range, tied it. Butler put the Wolves back in front with a 13-footer, but he missed twice more from the floor in the final two minutes. Murray’s off-balance bank tied it at 101, so the Wolves needed Gibson’s defense to save them down the stretch.

    He forced Jokic into the baseline for a forced layup that missed badly. Then Gibson stripped the ball from the 7-foot Serbian in the corner to give the Wolves the ball back with 1.6 seconds remaining in regulation. Jamal Crawford’s heave from just inside half court was on line, but it fell short.

    ”I just took one dribble Womens Evander Kane Jersey ,” Jokic said, ”and Taj made a really good defensive play.”

    PLAY NOW, REST LATER

    Gibson played through a sore neck that forced him out of the last game in the first quarter, finishing with eight points in 35 minutes. Butler logged 42 minutes after playing 23 minutes apiece in his previous two games.

    ”He told me after the shootaround that he’s from Brooklyn,” coach Tom Thibodeau said, ”and he said he’d be fine.”

    DRAMATIC FINISH

    The game marked only the third time since the NBA’s current 16-team format began in 1984 that two teams met on the last day of the regular season with the winner qualifying for the playoffs and the loser being eliminated. Washington beat Cleveland in 1997 and Denver beat Sacramento in 1995 to claim the final spots.

    DIVISION DOMINANCE

    With the loss, the Nuggets finished last in the Northwest Division, a mere three games out of first. This was the first time in 14 seasons since the NBA realigned into six divisions of five times apiece that the last-place team was less than 11 games behind the leader.

    TIP-INS

    Nuggets: Jokic posted his seventh 30-point game of the season, three of those in the last six games. … Wilson Chandler went scoreless in 48 minutes. … The Nuggets had 15 turnovers, turning into 24 points for the Wolves.

    ”You can’t go on the road and beat yourself in the most important game of the season,” coach Mike Malone said.

    Timberwolves: Towns finished the season with 68 double-doubles, the most in the NBA. His streak of 246 consecutive games played, every contest of his career, is the longest current run in the league. … This was the 16th sellout crowd for the Wolves, their most since the 1991-92 season.

    UP NEXT

    The Wolves will start the first round in Houston, on either Saturday or Sunday.

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