To say that this latest 3-5 start to the 2021-22 season for the Minnesota Timberwolves has been disappointing would be an understatement, especially since (in my opinion) the team has lost some extremely winnable games that should have them at 6-2 or even 7-1. The Wolves should have beat the New Orleans Pelicans, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic, and don’t even get me started on that second Los Angeles Clippers game.
Yes, I could sit here and rant about the games the team SHOULD have won, but if this team is actually going to be good enough to flirt with the play-in game, then the way the season has started should add enough fuel to the fire (especially with the addition of Patrick Beverley).
After the Wolves lost the third game of the season to the Pelicans in disappointing fashion, they surprised everyone by rebounding (literally!) on the road against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. D’Angelo Russell scored 29 in that game, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards each added 25. Jarred Vanderbilt also contributed with a strong game, as he inhaled 13 rebounds and tallied 10 points. This victory against the Bucks should be set as an example of how they should compete after every tough loss and how I expect them to come out during this road trip.
Minnesota’s four-game road trip kicks off tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies, who are also looking to bounce back after a 115-87 loss to the Washington Wizards. The Grizz enter the game led by Ja Morant who is averaging 25.2 points per game, as well as Desmond Bane, who is averaging 16.7 points per game. This Memphis team is very deep as well, as they also have Jaren Jackson Jr., new addition Steven Adams, Kyle Anderson, and rookie Ziaire Williams.
There is also the recent news that DLO might be coming back after a two-game absence due to an ankle injury.
Minnesota @Timberwolves Status Report in advance of tomorrow’s game at Memphis:— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) November 7, 2021
D’Angelo Russell - Right Ankle Sprain
Leandro Bolmaro - G League Assignment
McKinley Wright IV - G League Two-Way
This is huge for Minnesota, as they were missing one of their top three options and best playmaker. The Wolves in recent history have struggled against Memphis and yes, I still think this team has a lot of potential, so I do believe this team can rebound tonight (like they did in Milwaukee) by securing a win.
It’s no secret that this recent four-game losing streak has put the spotlight on a variety of different issues for the Wolves — including rebounding, unnecessary fouling, shot selection, and everything else in between. However, the one bright spot for most of this season has been the team’s defense, and if they can come out tonight and match (or exceed) Memphis’ intensity on that end of the ball, they should set themselves up nicely to get back in the win column. Speaking of defense — it wouldn’t shock me if the Wolves gave their opponent a dose of their own medicine by mixing in some zone tonight against a Memphis team that has struggled from the perimeter.
After the quick trip to Memphis, the Timberwolves then head west to California where they will play three games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Clippers. After Sunday night’s victory against the Houston Rockets, the Warriors are currently rocking the league’s best record (8-1), led by MVP front-runner Stephen Curry but also an improved bench that features Otto Porter, Jr., Nemanja Bjelica, Andre Iguodala, and Gary Payton II. The emergence of Jordan Poole, who is averaging 17.6 points per game this season, has also been a factor for them as well. For this game, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Josh Okogie, Jarred Vanderbilt, and KAT, just because of the energy this lineup can bring on defense, especially when they started the first couple games of the season.
After the game against the Warriors, the Wolves will then head to LA for a double-header at Staples Center against both tenants — Lakers and Clippers. The Lakers currently sit at 5-5 in the Western Conference, as Russell Westbrook attempts to find himself with his new team and with LeBron James still sidelined with an injury. It is still unclear if LeBron will ultimately be ready by Friday to play the Wolves. Both the Lakers and Wolves have struggled in the early season, so I think this game will be a fairly entertaining slugfest, even if LeBron James ends up not being able to go.
The last game of the road trip will be against Minnesota’s recent arch-nemesis, the Los Angeles Clippers. This caps off the team’s road trip and will be the first instance of a back-to-back for the Wolves this season. Having already played (and lost to) the Clippers twice this season, there should be plenty of motivation for the team to get one back against Paul George and LAC, even if it is the dreaded second night of a back-to-back (and even more dreaded final game of a long road trip).
While it might not be a popular stance (or even a healthy one at times), I pride myself in trying to stay positive and really do believe that the Wolves are capable of winning a few of these upcoming games. Obviously the worst case scenario for these next four games is 0-4, but if D’Angelo Russell can return to the lineup and the team can sort out their up-and-down activity level on defense, I could see them going 2-2 (or at best 3-1). Despite the frustrations of the last week or so, the Wolves have played less than 10% of their schedule, and while they left some wins on the table at home, the pressure is now on them to go on the road and surprise a few people (and teams).
What are your predictions on how this four-game road trip goes?