With last night's 107-104 loss to Houston, the Minnesota Timberwolves dropped to 12-28 on the season. They have lost eight straight games, with their last win coming all the way back in 2015, the 94-80 win over the Utah Jazz two days before the turn of the year. It's been a really dispiriting run of games, with responses ranging from pure rage to disappointment to just plain acceptance. So rather than look back yet again, let's look forward to try and find a sign of hope in the schedule.
The first signs of hope: while the losses have kept coming, the margins of defeat have started to fall, even against better teams. Four of the Wolves' last five losses have been by single digits (excluding the annihilation dealt out by the Cleveland Cavaliers), with Wednesday's three-point deficit the best attempt yet. The Wolves' 104 points last night was the first time they had broken triple digits in scoring in fourteen games. The Wolves have now outrebounded their opponents in two straight games after failing to do so for six straight.
With that in mind, here are the Wolves' next ten games.
|Fri 1/15||@ Oklahoma City||28-12|
|Tue 1/19||@ New Orleans||12-26|
|Wed 1/20||@ Dallas||22-18|
|Mon 1/25||@ Cleveland||27-9|
|Wed 1/27||Oklahoma City||28-12|
|Fri 1/29||@ Utah||17-21|
|Sun 1/31||@ Portland||17-24|
|Tue 2/2||@ LA Lakers||9-31|
After Friday's game against Cleveland, the Wolves have two games which should be more than winnable against Phoenix and New Orleans. The Suns have been a total trainwreck, with questions all over the place. They are 1-10 over their last games, including a 20-point loss to the Lakers, giving up 142 points to the Kings, and a home loss to the Sixers (no, I don't know why that sounds familiar, what are you talking about?). The Pelicans got a win over Sacramento last night, but had lost four straight before that and continue to have questions about Anthony Davis' health (although he returned last night and played very well).
If the Wolves cannot take one or both of those games, things get a little trickier. The Wolves lost their first meetings with both the Mavs and the Grizzlies, although both were close games. After that comes the visit to Cleveland, in which a win would be a tremendous surprise, and then yet another meeting with the Thunder. That home game against Oklahoma City marks the end of one of the hardest stretches of the season, with the West Coast trip to Utah, Portland and Los Angeles looking very tame.
The bottom line is that yes, it's been rough, but this was always going to be a rough stretch just from the schedule. To quote myself, from the blog the day this season's schedule was released:
The entire middle of January is very strong, starting with the ESPN game against the Cavaliers on January 8: CLE, DAL, OKC, @HOU, @OKC. After that, one game against the Suns, then @NOP, @DAL, MEM, @CLE, OKC. That's ten of eleven games straight against some of the strongest teams in the west plus two against the Cavaliers.
Even if the Wolves had continued to look stronger than they have, this would have almost assuredly been a long stretch of losses. It is helpful to remember that even though there are established problems that have had thousands and thousands of words written about them by many of us in the Wolves writing universe, myself included, this was a predictable series of losses, and one hopes that some reassuring wins will come soon.
The other detail that continues to amuse me about how strange this season is across the league involves the playoff picture. Yes, the Wolves are 14th in the West, but hear me out. The Jazz at 17-21 currently occupy the eighth seed, only six games ahead of the Wolves. No, I don't think the Wolves are making the playoffs, but given the rending and gnashing of teeth common to our discourse these days, it remains an amusing fact (much more related to other teams' struggles, but that's just a small detail).
In the other sport I pay a good bit of attention to, competitive League of Legends, regular seasons are starting in domestic leagues all across the world, from China to Europe. I'm doing a bit of writing for fun on that, so if it's something you're curious about or interested in, keep an eye out. If you'd like to check it out, the European league starts today at 11:00am Central, and can be watched live and free on Twitch and Youtube.
Song of the Day
It's been a while since I've done one of these. Let's start the morning off right, with some very loud music. Enjoy DragonForce, and have a stellar Thursday.