New Orleans emerged victorious, 100-88, keeping pace with Oklahoma City in the proverbial race for the 8th seed out West, while the Wolves took sole possession of the NBA's worst record. The latter is thanks in part to New York's inexplicable win last night over Atlanta, 112-108.
New Orleans can clinch a postseason bid with a win over San Antonio at home on Wednesday.
Oklahoma City, meanwhile, can reach the playoffs by defeating Minnesota at Target Center in the season finale--but only if New Orleans loses to San Antonio.
Why even play the game at all? Oklahoma City really needs a win and the Wolves would benefit by losing. There would be no need for anyone to write a recap; everyone would be happy.
Yesterday, Flip Saunders started Zach LaVine; Lorenzo Brown; Andrew Wiggins; Adreian Payne and Justin Hamilton--Chase Budinger, Robbie Hummel and Arinze Onuaku made appearances off the bench. Garnett, Kevin Martin, Gary Neal, Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Bennett were unavailable, dressed in business casual attire on the sideline. Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic were elsewhere, recovering from surgery and not in attendance.
Chase Budinger has made the most of substantial and consistent playing time--he's even played more minutes this season than in his previous two years with Minnesota combined.
During the 630 minutes Budinger has played since the All-Star Break, the Wolves have scored at a rate of 103.3 points per 100 possessions while giving up 107 points per 100 possessions to their opponents. Minnesota's Offensive Rating slipped to 97.9 while their Defensive Rating dropped to 111.7 in the 729 minutes Budinger has spent on the bench.
Individually, Budinger averaged 12.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game over the previous 20 matchups--shooting 49.7% from the field and 39.7% from three point range during that span. These figures are comparable to his production tallied in his best season with Houston, when he averaged 9.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists per outing behind 44.2% field goal shooting (and a 40.2% 3PT FG%).
Budinger continued his resurgence to form by connecting on 9-of-10 attempts from the charity stripe en route to 18 points against New Orleans--all before the start of the final frame. However, he limped away from the court on Monday with a sprained left ankle after having landed awkwardly on this play.
Saunders called timeout after Budinger made the ensuing free throws to remove him from the game.
It is uncertain whether Budinger will be ready to play by Wednesday.
What should I talk about now...?
Kevin Garnett's return to Minnesota has, other than the nostalgia, been pretty underwhelming but I don't think anyone expects that his retirement is imminent. As it was mentioned on this website yesterday the feeling is Garnett will return for at least one more season. Because of the injury to Budinger the Wolves may need KG to at least suit up, if not play against Oklahoma City in the season finale.
The league requires teams to dress eight players for each contest.
Flip Saunders joked postgame that someone from the media might have to suit up against Oklahoma City tomorrow.
Although it won't happen forfeiting might be in the Wolves' best interest--this would unquestionably an appropriate way to end the season. I'm not even sure that's a possible scenario that could occur.
Anyway, nobody wants to see anyone else ultimately end up unnecessarily hurt, or injured.
The season is almost over.
The Wolves might finish in last place.