Coming into tonight, the Minnesota Timberwolves were 34-42 with six games left in the season while they were nine-and-a-half games out of the playoff race. It’s the type of scenario that makes being a fan this time of year extremely difficult, with few reasons to get excited and nothing to look forward to in the immediate future. But recent games, including tonight, should offer a little bit of hope for beleaguered Wolves fans, with promising flourishes on both ends of the court from rookies like Keita Bates-Diop and Cam Reynolds, as well as the continued success of Josh Okogie.
In particular, this trio of rookies shot the ball well tonight (for rookie standards), combining for 23 points on 9-16 shooting. At one point in the first half the Wolves went on a 9-0 run thanks to back-to-back threes by Bates-Diop complemented by one from Reynolds.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to be concerned about as the Wolves limp toward the offseason, but the young players who are now getting some frequent minutes are making the most of that opportunity while gaining some valuable experience. The point here is not that the Wolves shouldn’t worry about the fact that they will miss the playoffs for the 14th time in 15 years; it’s that not recognizing the team’s successes – however minor they might be in comparison – is still important.
The Wolves ultimately lost this one on the glass, giving up 50 rebounds to Portland while managing just 37 of their own. The Blazers also nailed 50 percent of their threes, with five of those coming from Seth Curry. Meanwhile Evan Turner ended up with the quietest triple-double of all time, and the only reason I’m aware of it is because the Portland bench lost its mind when he grabbed what was ostensibly his 10th rebound during garbage time.
For the Wolves, Tyus Jones had a great all-around game, finishing with 14 points and 10 assists while being the only Minnesota player with a positive plus-minus (+3). He looked confident all night on both ends of the floor, and it was especially noticeable in his shot (he finished 7-12 from the field). Gorgui Dieng also had a fantastic game, putting up 18 points on 7-8 shooting. His renewed energy has been a fun thing to follow as this season continues to wind down.
At the end of the night, the Wolves played fine, but they just don’t have anything left to fight for in comparison to a Blazers team that’s battling for home-court advantage in the postseason.