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Since he came to the Timberwolves in February, guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker has stayed in a hotel, the same hotel that was set to house the Thunder on their visit to Minneapolis for Friday's play-in game.

That meant Alexander-Walker didn't have to do much planning in order to catch up with his cousin, Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The two Canadians grew up in Ontario about 40 minutes from each other, and were close throughout their childhood. Gilgeous-Alexander's father, Vaughn, is the brother of Alexander-Walker's mother, Nicole.

“I know him pretty well. The best I can to help my team, I have to tell them everything to get that win, because it's important for us, and myself as well.”
Nickeil Alexander-Walker

Growing up, they had a shared dream of making the NBA; now on Friday they were set to face each other with a playoff berth on the line.

"Obviously the stakes are high. Win or go home. This is like bragging rights for the whole summer," Alexander-Walker said. "Just kind of sticking to the game plan, and more focusing on the win than the competition. Not letting the rivalry or the pride get the best of me and take me out of the game."

Alexander-Walker started Friday's game for the Timberwolves, presumably to guard his cousin.

Alexander-Walker and Gilgeous-Alexander hadn't faced each other this season. Before Alexander-Walker came to the Wolves, his former team, Utah, hadn't played the Thunder. The Wolves had already faced the Thunder in all their matchups for the season by the time the Jazz traded Alexander-Walker to Minnesota.

Alexander-Walker said he had been looking forward to facing his cousin and was glad he got the chance to do it in such a big game.

"Ultimately, it's love at the end of the day," Alexander-Walker said. "But this is something we both care about, and we both want to be the best players we can be. So right now, this is all that matters. When 48 minutes start, that's all we're gonna be thinking about. At the end of the game, it's gonna be love. Before the game, it's gonna be love."

Without Jaden McDaniels, who is out because of a broken right hand, the Wolves needed Alexander-Walker to spend some time guarding Gilgeous-Alexander, who has blossomed into one of the best point guards in the NBA.

Alexander-Walker said he wouldn't be shy about divulging all he knows about his cousin's game.

"It's kind of like when you play for a team and you get traded, and you got to play them," Alexander-Walker said. "You know their ins and outs, and just knowing him my whole life, so I know him pretty well. The best I can to help my team, I have to tell them everything to get that win, because it's important for us, and myself as well."

Re-examining the rotation

Coach Chris Finch said in Tuesday's game against the Lakers he made a calculated gamble that he could use a shortened rotation and still come out with a victory.

"I took the risk that I could win with a short rotation down the stretch," Finch said. "It didn't work. It's on me."

In reviewing the tape, Finch said it was clear the Wolves were tired down the stretch, and that contributed to them slowing on offense; they scored only three points in the final minutes of regulation.

"The other thing is we slowed the game down unnecessarily, too," Finch said. "We got zero in transition even when we had a handful of opportunities to do it. You can't slow down. You can slow down the last three minutes of the game, but you can't slow down the whole quarter."