The Minnesota Timberwolves avoided the first sweep in franchise history by rallying in overtime to defeat the No. 1 seed Denver Nuggets 114-108 in front of an animated Target centre crowd.
Canadian combo guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker came-up large in the extra session, just when the No.8 seed Timberwolves needed most to push their best of seven, first-round series to game five.
The Nuggets, looking for their first sweep in franchise history, ripped-off 12 straight points, three straight three-pointers, followed by an easy floater and free-throw by Nikola Jokic to tie the game 96-96 and force overtime.
A late season trade acquisition by the Timberwolves, Alexander-Walker has stepped-in and provided quality minutes for head coach Chris Finch both in the play-in games and now in the NBA playoffs.
Alexander Walker scored six of his eight points in overtime, pressured Jamal Murray full-court and drew and a game changing offensive foul to help the Timberwolves establish a two possession cushion and help avoid the sweep.
Selected by the Brooklyn Nets and promptly traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, Alexander-Walker’s draft night transaction presaged his early tenure in the NBA, as he played for three different teams across three seasons.
Picking up valuable experience along the way, the 24-year-old guard has finally found a team and a coach that appreciates the value he brings to the court.
Former rookie of the Anthony Edwards finished with 34 points, six rebounds and five assists and instead of discussing his own individual brilliance, he opted to talk about his recently acquired teammate’s performance.
“I tell him, Nickeil you were two-for-two from three-pointers last game, and you only shot two of them. Shoot the ball more. Nickeil is a perfect fit for our team, I’m happy for him, he’s getting a chance to play, and he is showcasing his abilities.”
As the primary defender on Jamal Murray, Alexander-Walker has used his lateral quickness and long wingspan to try and contain his potential Canadian national teammate.
Through four games, Alexander-Walker spent a total of 30 minutes matched-up together and has limited Murray to just 18 points and a dismal 9-23 shooting.
“After that game two, I kind of took it personal and just try to do my best. Make it tough for him, he is going to make tough shots, but knowing that I’m there the next possession, just trying to disrupt his rhythm, be as physical as I can, it’s the playoffs, They (referees) will still make some touchy calls, just trying to show my hand early, help my team, really, that all I care about.”
“Teammates having your back in a time like this, in a game like this, gives you all the confidence in the world. But honestly, I’m just trusting myself.”