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Timberwolves, Suns duel in search of better positioning

The Minnesota Timberwolves will battle for a top playoff seed in the Western Conference when they tip off against the Phoenix Suns in the regular-season finale Sunday in Minneapolis.

Minnesota (56-25) is in a three-way tie with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets for the best record in the conference with one game to go. They could finish with the No. 1, 2 or 3 seed depending on the results of Sunday’s games.

If all three teams win or all three teams lose, the Thunder will finish as the No. 1 seed based on a tiebreaker among the three teams. The Timberwolves would earn the No. 2 seed in that scenario and the Nuggets would receive the No. 3 seed.

If the Timberwolves win Sunday and either the Thunder or Nuggets lose, then Minnesota would grab the No. 1 seed because of a head-to-head tiebreaker against either team.

Then again, if the Timberwolves lose and the Thunder and Nuggets both win, then Minnesota would finish No. 3.

Minnesota center Rudy Gobert said he and his teammates were focused on the regular-season finale instead of worrying about all the variations of a crowded playoff race.

“Every game matters,” Gobert said. “Every possession matters at this point.

“I like the position we’re in. I like the way we play. It’s about us at the end of the day.”

Phoenix (48-33) also is motivated to try to win its final game of the regular season. The Suns are hoping to surpass the New Orleans Pelicans (49-32) for the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

New Orleans holds a one-game lead over Phoenix entering the final game. But if the Pelicans lose to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Suns beat the Timberwolves, then Phoenix will finish sixth while the Pelicans will fall into the seventh spot and be forced into the play-in tournament.

Suns forward Kevin Durant said this time of the season called for effort over everything.

“It’s about just digging down deep and understanding,” Durant said. “Most of these teams, every team knows all your sets and they know who you are – in and out – as a player. It comes down to who wants it more and who’s got the most will out there.”

Phoenix is coming off back-to-back wins against the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings. Durant scored a team-high 28 points to lead the Suns over the Kings on Friday night. Devin Booker finished with 21 points while Bradley Beal notched 20.

Minnesota is coming off a 109-106 home win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday. The game marked the return of big man Karl-Anthony Towns, who had not played since March 4 because of a torn meniscus in his left knee.

Towns finished with 11 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He made a go-ahead 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter to help Minnesota edge the Hawks.

“There was very much doubt around all of us that I would not be ready until (the) second round, third round (of the playoffs),” Towns said. “So I heard the doubt and got competitive, got very competitive with it. Attacked rehab as tough and as hard as I can.”