Welcome to the Therapy couch. Unfortunately, neither of my predictions about last night's final Minnesota Timberwolves game against the Oklahoma City Thunder came true: Russell Westbrook setting the season's single-game scoring record (only 38), and Adreian Payne winning the game on a banked-home 3-pointer from halfcourt (um...the Wolves lost by 25). We now have plenty of time to look back at the season that was, starting with John's recap from last night. Eric will have more later today. For now, let's take a Wolves-focused look at the playoff picture.
(1) Atlanta Hawks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets
The Nets scraped into the playoff picture at the very last second thanks to a win over the Magic and an Indiana Pacers loss to the Grizzlies last night. The Hawks have been the best team in the East for the whole year. This series should not be close. The Timberwolves actually kept both of their games with the Hawks close this year, losing each of them by 12. Back in the halcyon days of early November, the Wolves beat the Nets 98-91 to even their record at 2-2. It was the last time they would touch .500. They lost the other matchup by 16 in March. My Wolves predict-o-meter says that the Hawks take this series in a sweep, 4-0.
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Boston Celtics
The Cavaliers, featuring the return of LeBron James, have set themselves apart as the other prominent team in the East after a rocky start to the year. The surprise entrance of the Celtics into the playoff race after a year of stockpiling draft picks and fun trades is an interesting story, but they're not likely to provide much of an obstacle to the Cleveland death machine. The Timberwolves and Celtics split their season series 1-1, each team winning at home, with the Wolves' victory in late January featuring Kevin Martin's return from a broken wrist. The Cavaliers won both meetings with the Wolves, with the game at Target Center in late January being quite an event. My Wolves predict-o-meter has the Cavs taking this in five games, the plucky Celtics stealing one in Boston.
(3) Chicago Bulls vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks
The Bulls have been driven not by their traditional strengths of Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, but by the free agent acquisition of the rejuvenated Pau Gasol and the recent improvement of Nikola Mirotic. The Bucks, improving from a worst-in-the-NBA record last year (they won eight games less than the Wolves did, for reference) to occupying a playoff spot for almost the entire year, could make some noise against them, although a lot depends on the play of trade-acquired point guard Michael Carter-Williams. The Wolves comfortably lost both of their regular season meetings with Milwaukee, although both were before the changes Milwaukee made at the trade deadline. Both Minnesota losses to the Bulls were tight games, especially the third game of the season, in which Jimmy Butler made two free throws at the end of the game to ice a one-point Chicago win after a bad foul by Andrew Wiggins. The meter has this series closer, and I'm taking the upset, with the Bucks winning in six games.
(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards
The Raptors, by virtue of playing in the worst division in the NBA, coasted to one of their best regular seasons in franchise history, but always seemed to be slightly underwhelming. The Wizards seem like a similar situation, with their roster looking like it should be a top roster in the East, but injuries and coaching (hi, Randy.) have held them back. The Wolves split with the Wizards this season, each team winning at home. That home win was the KG game, the Wolves' best game of the regular season, which they won by 20. The Raptors swept their two matchups with the Wolves, the Canadian leg of the trip featuring annoying Canadian Wiggins-lust. The predict-o-meter has the Raptors comfortably winning this series in 5 games.
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) New Orleans Pelicans
I'm so excited for this series. The Warriors just wrapped up one of the greatest regular seasons in NBA history, and get to go up against Anthony Davis' inaugural playoff appearance after the Pelicans managed to find a crack in the mighty San Antonio armor and knock the Spurs down to the 6 seed and the Thunder straight out of the playoffs. Realistically, the Warriors should comfortably win this series, but playoff Anthony Davis! The Warriors unsurprisingly swept their four games with the Wolves this year, but the Wolves put up a good fight in one home game, only losing by three. The Pelicans also swept their four games against the Wolves, including the worst loss of the year, the 48-point amelioration in mid-November in New Orleans. The predict-o-meter sees the Pelicans making it interesting, but not interesting enough. Warriors in 5.
(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
Both of these Texas teams go in with injury issues. The Rockets have dealt with time without Dwight Howard, Donatas Motiejunas, and Patrick Beverley
Patterson this year, but James Harden has had the best season of his career and is rightfully in the conversation for MVP. The Mavs recently lost Chandler Parsons and are unsure if he'll be ready for the playoffs. Dirk's still a killer, but the biggest question in Dallas has to be if Rajon Rondo is going to be playoff Rajon Rondo or the mediocre player he's been since his departure from Boston. Also, isn't it ironic that the Celtics and Mavs are both 7 seeds? The Mavs took all three meetings they had with the Wolves this year, the closest being Ricky Rubio's return from his first ankle injury in early February. The Rockets took all four of their games against the Wolves, including the Mexico City "home" game. Thank goodness the Wolves aren't part of that next year. Predict-o-meter does not believe in Rondo, and will miss Dirk. Rockets in 6.
(3) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (6) San Antonio Spurs
These two teams were among the four battling for the 2 seed to the very last day of the season, and the Spurs' loss to New Orleans dropped them all the way down here and out of home court advantage. The Clippers have probably been the best team not many have talked about all year. Chris Paul's had possibly his best season and their offense is still one of the best in the NBA. They still don't have a bench, but they haven't needed one. Their present for a great season? A matchup with a Spurs team that just came off winning 11 straight and 21 of 24. This series should be fascinating. Can the Clippers survive not playing their starting 5? Will Kawhi Leonard actually devour one of them on defense? The Spurs swept their four matchups with Minnesota, with three of the four margins of victory greater than 20 points. The Clippers won all three of theirs as well, the most notable being Adreian Payne's 16 point, 15 rebound effort in March (and holding the Clippers under 90?!). Predict-o-meter fears the Spurs. Spurs in 7.
(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
The Blazers actually had only the sixth-best record in the West, but by virtue of winning the Northwest Division, get the 4 seed. Damian Lillard's had a great year, but there's been a growing trend of opposing point guards lighting him up on defense, and the Blazers have had severe injury issues, losing player after player. The Grizzlies were the 2 seed for most of the season, but slipped late in the season and now have to worry about Mike Conley's health. The individual matchups in this series will be fascinating, especially inside with Lamarcus Aldridge against Randolph and Gasol. In the biggest upset of the year, the Wolves took games off of not one, but both of these teams! The Grizzlies took two of three matchups with the Wolves, but none of the three games were separated by more than four points, and the Wolves' win in early February might have been my favorite game of the year (Ricky Rubio in the clutch). The Wolves and Blazers actually split their season series 2-2, each team winning both games at home. Fun fact: the Blazers and Pistons were the only teams the Wolves won multiple games against this year. The predict-o-meter thinks that the Blazers can take this in a close series. Blazers in 7.
I still can't believe the Wolves took two games off the Blazers. That's hilarious. Anyway, Therapy's about done for the day. We'll leave you with appropriate music.