Jim Souhan
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The Timberwolves' first playoff game of 2024 felt strangely like a culmination. As if that game and this series were a reward for the front office's planning and risks, and the coaching staff's constant adaptability, and a yearlong outpouring of passion and relative optimism from a jaded fan base.

Justin Jefferson and Adrian Peterson sat courtside, signing autographs and playing to the camera. Alex Rodriguez, wearing a SMedium sweater so tight you could see his spleen, approached Peterson, probably to give him advice on how not to purchase a sports franchise.

Former Wolves watched from a suite. Fans packed the joint, wearing white and screaming. On the court, Minnesota's star, Anthony Edwards, playfully trash-talked his boyhood idol, the great Kevin Durant.

The Timberwolves' 120-95 victory over Phoenix wasn't just an impressive display of gamesmanship, and a further justification of how this roster was built.

Game 1 was performance art, the kind of event that creates and rewards fans, bolsters optimism and banishes traditional Minnesota pessimism.

"It was awesome," Wolves coach Chris Finch said Monday. "It was great. The crowd was amazing. They were into it from the beginning. Getting off to a big start was important for us, to make sure we were able to match the kinds of starts Phoenix has had against us, but also key in that was keeping the energy in the building.

"It's always enjoyable after a win. I'm not sure it's always this enjoyable after a loss. But nonetheless, it's fun to play in these atmospheres."

Said Karl-Anthony Towns: "It was definitely energized in there, especially in the first quarter. We've been blessed. Our fans have given us sellouts all year, so it didn't feel abnormal to have that kind of atmosphere."

There were so many moments to remember.

Edwards teased Durant, to show that his admiration is not mixed with fear.

Later, Edwards swished a 27-foot jumper with Bradley Beal's fingers in his face, then good-naturedly teased Beal, who shook his head and smiled.

"Hey, I'm there watching. I'm excited, celebrating, too," Jaden McDaniels said. "It's fantastic to see him do it. He does it every game for us, so it's not new for us to see."

Naz Reid driving through the Suns' defense, seemingly out of control, then contorting himself to spin in an improbable reverse layup, causing the Wolves bench to react just like the fans around them.

Towns, trying to remove the last rust from his injury layoff, drawing a first-quarter double-team and flipping a pass behind his head to Rudy Gobert for a dunk.

Gobert venturing to the perimeter to guard Durant, one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, and succeeding.

Edwards, speaking to Bally Sports North on the court after the game, hearing chants of "M-V-P" raining down.

McDaniels missed the playoffs last year after breaking his hand. For the first time, he played in a Game 1 of a playoff series at Target Center.

"It was crazy out there," McDaniels said. "Fans were doing their job — were super loud, disruptive. So I mean, it was a great environment."

Sports are almost always about what comes next. Before the next game begins, Minnesotans should fully appreciate all that had to happen to create a blowout victory at home in Game 1 of a playoff series in the world's deepest and most spectacular sports league.

Bring on Game 2, and somebody please mic up Anthony Edwards.

Correction: A previous version of this column incorrectly stated the minimum number of remaining games in this playoff series that could be played at Target Center.