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In Timberwolves coach Chris Finch's book, there are star players who win games and others who won't let their team lose.

Veteran center Rudy Gobert's dominant 25-point, 19-rebound, five-block performance on perfect 10-for-10 shooting that beat Atlanta 109-106 Friday at Target Center was the latter.

Trailing a Hawks team that played its youth in the fourth quarter by two points with 3:30 left, the Wolves rallied to win and climbed into a three-way tie with Oklahoma City and Denver for the Western Conference's top three seeds — all with 56-25 records entering Sunday's 82nd and final regular-season games.

In a three-way tie, the Thunder get the No. 1 seed, the Wolves would be No. 2 and the Nuggets No. 3 because of three-way tiebreaker rules. If the Wolves win Sunday and either the Thunder or Nuggets lose, the Wolves would get the top seed based on head-to-head tiebreakers.

Anthony Edwards scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, but it was Gobert who refused to lose with a block, two free throws made and two rebounds in the final 12.5 seconds of a one-possession game. He clutched a caroming rebound safely in the final second after his team led by 17 points in the third quarter. He was the only Timberwolves player to play that entire fourth quarter.

Eight of his 10 field goals made without a miss were dunks. His 10-for-10 shooting set a franchise record for most field-goal attempts without a miss. He became the second player to reach 25 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks while taking at least 10 field-goal attempts without a miss since the NBA in 1973 made blocked shots an official stat. Atlanta's Dikembe Mutombo is the other, in 1999.

Gobert did so Friday when fellow star big man Karl-Anthony Towns returned to play for the first time since March 4 because of knee surgery.

"There's a difference between being the reason you win and being the reason you don't lose," Finch said. "And Rudy is the reason we don't lose. He doesn't let us lose these games. He has been this way all season. He just brings it and he knows when the team needed him to do this the most. That's why he's one of the many reasons he's so valuable for us."

Gobert and Towns left the court winners together, practically skipping through a tunnel while Towns chanted, "Rudy! Rudy!" as they went.

"When he's playing with this kind of confidence at this level, we're going to be really tough to play against," Towns said after he scored 11 points in 27 minutes as a starter. "Tonight you saw people who are our top scorers take a backseat to watching Rudy dominate."

With him defending the basket, the Wolves held the West's best record and had the NBA's top-rated defense much of this season.

"It's just the mindset of being consistent, keep doing the little things regardless of the circumstances, just being in the moment," Gobert said. "I really try to be that every night. Sometimes things don't go my way, sometimes things don't go our way as a team. But I can control what I can control, keep my poise and keep doing what I'm great at.

"I really think that's leadership. It impacts everyone around me. It builds trust when everyone — coaches, teammates — knows they can rely on me and it's contagious."

In July 2022, new Wolves boss Tim Connelly traded five players, four future first-round picks out to 2029 and a 2026 first-round pick swap for Gobert. The deal with Utah was widely criticized for paying such a ransom, particularly for a 30-year-old primarily considered a defensive player, albeit considered the best in the league three times.

Atlanta coach Quin Snyder coached Gobert for eight seasons with the Jazz from 2014 to '22, the bulk of Gobert's NBA career.

"You see it if you're around him, he's really competitive," Snyder said. "He's got a really unique skill set. He takes great pride in the things he wants to accomplish. He's aware. ... It wasn't hard. I think we were like 30th in defense, suddenly I became a good defensive coach. Grateful to Rudy for that."

Towns' Friday return allowed Finch to start 7-1 Gobert and 7-foot Towns beside each other and play them with each other. After that, the Wolves have Naz Reid and Jaden McDaniels, both 6-9.

"We've been really good with our two-big structures," Finch said. "We had to get back to more two-man structure around the bigs with KAT back. It has been good for us all year."

Good enough that the Wolves still contend in Game 82 for home-court advantage in the West, and Gobert said he's playing the best of his 11-year NBA career.

"I think so," he said. "When you combine every aspect mentally, physically, in terms of my skillset and experience, I definitely think so. But at this point, it's all about the playoffs. It's about winning. That's what I'm here for and why I put in all this work I'm trying to get that championship."