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The Hunter’s American Sports Tour – Part Two

Target Center Minneapolis. Photographed by Sam Wagner. Image via Shutterstock

Minnesota Timberwolves vs Cleveland Cavaliers

As the sport of basketball continues to gain traction in Australia (spurred on by the likes of Jingles and Simmons), it becomes the dream of many young Australians to see basketball in its most professionally elevated form and, while in Minneapolis, I was fortunate enough to achieve that dream as I went to my first ever game of America’s NBA – watching some genuine basketball superstars in action.

The Timberwolves against the Cavaliers isn’t exactly a clash of titans in the NBA, but, the standard of basketball and promotional hype still trumped anything I’d seen before. There’s a special aura around this league, whether it’s the intimacy of the venues (when compared to the leviathan 80,000+ NFL stadiums), or the passion of the players, or any other reason, I’m not sure. But, it remains that I couldn’t help but feel the buzz in the air around the venue before tip-off.

No matter the score, I knew I was bound for four quarters of pure entertainment.

The Venue

Target Center, the home of the Timberwolves and the (arguably far more successful) WNBA Lynx, seats just under 19,000 spectators and is an intimate, yet modern, venue with the most recent round of renovations completed in 2017.

As I entered the arena, I was greeted by the Timberwolves hype crew, whose energy instantly snapped me into a great mood for the game ahead. A couple of Surly Furious IPA’s later and I was in my seat ready to take in the action. To say I was keen for my first NBA tipoff is an understatement and a half. The cheerleaders, music and noise only added to my already palpable excitement. It was game time.

The Game

Minnesota Timberwolves v Cleveland Cavaliers. Image photographed by Ben Holmes for Hunter and Bligh

After winning the tip, Cleveland looked to put their foot down quickly, leaping out to a 22-10 lead in the first 8-minutes (much to the dismay of the home fans). Minnesota managed to claw back a few points, and we ended the first quarter just six points down. The teams traded blows for much of the second quarter, ending the half at the exact same margin.

In the third quarter, the Timberwolves (led by a stellar individual performance by Covington) picked up the pace and managed to draw within one point of their opposition a few minutes in. They jostled back and forth, but a late run by the cavs saw them end the quarter with an increasingly-insurmountable seven-point lead.

Not to be outdone, however, the Timberwolves let us know their night wasn’t over just yet. Another excellent quarter by Covington saw Minnesota pull within one point again, and then take the lead with just 6-minutes left! The crowd was raucous as Napier drilled the go-ahead shot, but also hesitant as to what the future held.

Unfortunately, as is the way with Minnesota sports, that was where the fun ended. A quick run from the Cavs in response saw them pull away once more, finishing the game with a six-point lead. A close defeat, but a defeat nonetheless. The disappointment washed over the crowd, but I (maybe a few beers too deep) couldn’t help but smile anyway – having finally just seen a full game of NBA basketball.

The Aftermath

Just across the road from the Target Center (or across the walkway if you’re unwilling to brace the Minnesotan weather) sits Kieran’s Irish Pub. As far as a post-match watering holes go, none are much better than this spot. If there’s one thing Midwesterns enjoy, it’s beer, and the selections on tap at Kieran’s is diverse and all delicious. Kieran’s is a cosy spot – something worth seeking out in the Minneapolis winter – and the bubbling atmosphere after a game can make anyone feel at home. Whether you’re celebrating a victory or (more likely) lamenting a loss, Kieran’s is the best spot to drink and feast through your feelings.

Feature image via ShutterStock.