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DENVER – For two decades, Game 7 of the 2004 second-round series in which the Timberwolves beat the Sacramento Kings stood as the franchise's shining moment.

It finally got some company Sunday night, as this Wolves team, 20 years to the day of that victory, came through with a performance that will echo in team history with a 98-90 Game 7 comeback victory over the defending champion Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena.

In the ultimate test of their mental fortitude, a team that got tossed out of the playoffs last season in five games by this same Denver team came back from a 20-point second-half deficit in a hostile environment, and for only the second time in team history, the Wolves are on to the Western Conference finals, where they will meet the Dallas Mavericks with Game 1 on Wednesday at Target Center.

"I just want these guys to understand — I don't think they understand what they just did," said point guard Mike Conley, whose professional career has spanned almost as long as the Wolves' conference finals drought. "Don't take it for granted."

Conley was speaking on behalf of himself, a 17-season veteran that only saw one conference finals appearance before Sunday. But he could have been speaking on behalf of a fanbase that wondered if a night like this would ever come again.

It was a defining night for a few in the Wolves organization. For President Tim Connelly, it was vindication that a much-maligned trade for Rudy Gobert was worth it. In two years, Connelly built a team that knocked off the Nuggets, the team he previously helped turn into an NBA champion.

But no member of the Wolves re-wrote their legacy in a bigger way Sunday than Karl-Anthony Towns. With Anthony Edwards struggling to get going on offense (16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists on 6-for-24 shooting), Towns kept the Wolves afloat in the first half as he scored 13 of his 23 points. Towns again provided the best one-on-one defense of any player on NBA MVP Nikola Jokic (34 points on 13-for-28 shooting, 19 rebounds, seven assists) and he mostly stayed out of foul trouble until late in the game.

In his nine years, Towns has dealt with his share of losing, his share of criticism that he couldn't be a winning player, and here he was contributing in a major way to perhaps the biggest victory in franchise history.

"I definitely had a moment," said Towns, who soaked in the adoration of hundreds of Wolves fans who stayed to celebrate near the team bench after. "I've been here nine years, talked about wanting to win and do something special here for the organization. All of the failures and all the things that materialized and happened, the disappointment that comes with it led to this moment."

Of course it wasn't going to happen easily, even in a series marked by several blowouts on each side. The Wolves had to come back from a 58-38 deficit early in the third quarter. After the Wolves went down 20, they outscored Denver 60-32 the rest of the game.

No team had even trailed by 15 points or more at halftime in a Game 7 and then rallied to win — until Sunday night in Denver.

Their offense had been woeful in a first half in which the Wolves shot 32%. Edwards said coach Chris Finch wasn't angry at halftime, but he laid the situation out there for the team with some helpful video clips.

"He wasn't really mad today," Edwards said. "It was more like, 'I know we going to win this game, we've just got to do this to win the game.' He wasn't really mad. It was just like his clips on the screen were, 'This is what we've got to do to win this game. And if we do it, we'll win. And if we don't, we'll lose.' And we did that."

Their defense forced the ball out of the hands of Jokic, and Denver began clanking shots. With each miss, the Wolves' confidence gained a little extra juice. Their defense that had been so soul-crushing earlier in the series finally arrived. They held Jamal Murray, who had 24 points in the first half, to 11 in the second half. Denver shot just 36% after the break, going 4-for-21 from three-point range.

"We said to ourselves all series long, our best is better than their best. We just have to play our best," Finch said.

Edwards got a few buckets in transition but his teammates came to his rescue as he couldn't find a rhythm against heavy double teams.

Gobert had a couple of improbable buckets, including a high-arcing fadeaway jumper to beat the shot clock in the fourth quarter that had everyone scratching their heads over how he made it. Gobert had eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter before fouling out with 2 minutes, 5 seconds left.

The Wolves got two big lifts from players who were out because of injuries a season ago when they lost to Denver in the first round. Jaden McDaniels, who missed the series after punching a wall in the 2022-23 regular-season finale, tied Towns with a team-high 23.

'Probably like three minutes left I knew we had them," McDaniels said. "Just sticking through the course of the game and making the right play every time; they just let us back in the game."

Then there was Naz Reid, who had a broken wrist last postseason. Reid was masterful in the fourth quarter after Towns picked up his fifth foul with 6:57 to play. He had a number of huge moments in the fourth quarter as he finished with 11 points, eight of which came in the fourth. He had two blocked shots in the quarter, both on Jokic.

"Effort, effort, effort," Reid said of those blocks.

He also had an electrifying putback slam of an Edwards miss to give the Wolves an 89-82 lead with 3:27 left. After a Conley steal, Reid found Edwards for only his second made three-pointer on 10 attempts, putting the Wolves up double digits for the first time.

"I don't think we were ever worried," Reid said. "That's the crazy part. All of us had the feeling that we were never worried. It's a game of runs. We went down 20 and we still weren't worried. That's a great team, don't get me wrong, but I think it just shows the confidence and character that we have. We're never going to quit."

Reid said they drew a lot of inspiration from Edwards, who instills confidence in his teammates, even when he is having an off night. In their dual postgame comments, Edwards and Towns seemed as if they were auditioning for a buddy comedy.

Take this exchange they had when discussing Gobert's miracle jumper.

Edwards: "Yeah, I think when Rudy hit the turnaround I was like, 'Yeah, we probably got 'em.'"

Towns: "God was with us."

Edwards: "I know that'll kill you. I know that'll kill you. That'll kill everything. Big shoutout to Big Ru, hit the turnaround on their [butt]."

Towns: "On God's day, too."

BOXSCORE: Wolves 98, Denver 90

But then Edwards turned serious to give props to Finch and Finch's way of coaching everyone on the team hard, regardless of stature or paycheck.

"No matter who it is, no matter how high up on the pole, he's going to get on you from start to finish," Edwards said. "And it starts with the head of the snake, and he's the head of our snake. We all look up to him, listen to him, and he do a great job of making sure we're ready to go every night."

Earlier this postseason, Finch said he didn't care about the franchise's long history of losing prior to his arrival. This was a new team, with new players who were trying to write their own histories.

They accomplished that. And as the Wolves headed out for their plane ride home, staff members were carrying celebratory cans of Modelo. Another series awaits. They can make even more history next round, but Sunday was a time to soak it all in. A victory 20 years in the making. A team unlike almost any this franchise has seen.

"It's a big moment for our club," Finch said. "Everybody talks about the last 30 years, which mean nothing to me. But it does mean a lot to a lot of people to see this team, root for this team. The city is behind this team. And to beat a team like Denver on their home floor the way we did, of course it was going to mean a lot."