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Wolves’ Gobert capitalizes on rare chance to show off post moves

Midway through Saturday's third quarter, Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert did something he seldom does.

He showed off his post moves.

With a playoff game filled with alley-oops and putback jams, Gobert backed away Phoenix center Jusuf Nurkic with three dribbles across the lane before he reversed course and banked a 12-foot turnaround shot off glass over his right shoulder. He was fouled by Nurkic, too, and made the free throw for a three-point play.

The play came early in a 21-5 run to close the quarter, one that gave the Wolves a 92-72 lead by third quarter's end after Phoenix had cut an 11-point deficit to four. The Wolves went on to win 120-95.

Was Gobert saving that move just for this first-round playoff series against the Suns?

"It's not something that we've seen a lot, but it's something I work on," he said. "I've been working on this and I just try to be aggressive making the right play. I didn't expect to get fouled. They were making a run and it kept their run short, so it was a good thing."

His screening and rolling, even without a turnaround bank shot, creates offense.

"It puts them in tough situations," Gobert said. "They have to make a choice. They did a great job taking that away. But we were able to get a lot of threes because I was rolling to the basket. … That's the beauty of our team: You can't take away everything. They choose to take away one thing, it opens up something else. It's going to be like that for the whole playoffs. It's a chess game."

Gobert had 16 rebounds in the Wolves' 52-28 advantage and six of his team's 13 offensive rebounds.

Playoff basketball

The Wolves' Naz Reid missed last year's playoffs because of an injury. He soon discovered Saturday it's not the regular season anymore. Not after he and his teammates were greeted by the crackling energy provided by a sellout crowd wearing white playoff T-shirts left on every seat.

"All the chants, everybody's here, the whiteout, everything was crazy," Reid said. "This is my first playoff experience. I watched it from the bench last year. But being in the game, it gives you chills. It's amazing."

Reid and his teammates also grew accustomed to an officiating crew that let both teams play.

"It's playoff basketball," Reid said. "The more intense, the more they let us play. We were just being more physical. That's who we are and something we have to show throughout these playoffs."

Saturday's sellout crowd was announced at 19,478. That's about 1,400 more than the regular-season capacity, when the team cordoned off end sections in the second deck and didn't sell those seats.

"Everybody who was here to watch deserves a round of applause," Reid said. "I think we need you again. You all are the real sixth men."

Next man up

The Wolves bench outscored their Suns counterparts 41-18, despite losing forward Kyle Anderson because of a hip pointer early in the second quarter. He played fewer than five minutes. The Suns' Grayson Allen also left because of an injured ankle after he went 0-for-3 from the field in 25 minutes.

"Pray for Kyle's speedy recovery," Wolves backup guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker said. "I know he's going to want to get back soon. We've had injuries throughout the season. Guys have wanted to take their opportunity and do something with it and play for the team and contribute. That's the mindset."

Clean the glass

The Wolves played more physical and utilized their size more than they did in any of the three regular-season losses to the Suns. Their massive edge on the glass also led to a 20-6 advantage in second-chance points.

"We're going to play our bigs, that's who we are," point guard Mike Conley said. "We need them to dominate any way they can. We're trying to utilize them as much as they can."

In your face

Officials reviewed a play early in the third quarter when Allen elbowed Conley in the face while creating space to get a shot off. They ruled the contact deserved neither type of flagrant foul.

Conley ended up on the floor and afterward was asked how his jaw felt.

"It's great," said Conley, who shot 2-for-12 and found fourth-quarter foul trouble. "It's made of metal. Half of it is metal, anyway."