Happy Friday, everyone!
For the first time in over a month, the Minnesota Timberwolves have two straight days off, which shows just how compact and condensed this NBA season has been due to COVID-19. Moreover, this is only the second two-day stretch of no Wolves hoop since the All-Star break back in early March. I don’t know about the players, but from a fan’s perspective, I greatly welcome the mini vacation.
So, how are things going lately for our beloved home team? According to the most recent SB Nation Reacts survey, which is a survey of fans across the NBA, 40 percent of Timberwolves fans are still confident that the team is headed in the right direction — which is down from 56 percent just last week (if you’d like to sign up for future Timberwolves surveys, you can do so here).
While it remains to be seen if the Wolves are indeed headed in the right direction long-term, one place they are officially NOT headed in the short-term is the NBA playoffs:
With San Antonio's win over Detroit, both the Houston Rockets and the Minnesota Timberwolves are eliminated from playoff contention.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 23, 2021
Houston's streak of 8 straight playoff appearances was the longest active streak in the NBA.
To put this in a larger perspective...
The last time both the Wolves and Rockets missed the playoffs? 2012.— jakes graphs (@jakesgraphs) April 23, 2021
How the mighty have fallen. https://t.co/YwTs6RfuXb
Both the Wolves and Rockets squared off in the first round of the playoffs just three short years ago, and now both are clinging to a less than 100% chance of keeping their first round pick this summer despite both comfortably nestled in the bottom of the league standings. Oh how the mighty have fallen indeed.
Pivoting to the more successful squads in the NBA — as teams prepare for the final push of the season, more teams than ever have an opportunity to see some form of postseason play. Because of a recent rule change for just the 2020 season, two more teams from each conference will have a chance to chase a title.
This season, seeds seven through ten will participate in a play-in tournament with two advancing to the regular postseason. The seven and eight seeds will need to win only one game to advance, while the bottom two seeds would need to win both games.
Back to the survey I mentioned above — according to a majority of fans around the country, the play-in tournament is having the desired effect. Nearly two-thirds of fans believe the new format is keeping more teams engaged and preventing at least some teams from tanking for a draft pick.
More than that, a nearly identical percentage of fans find the concept of a play-in game exciting.
For now, the playoff format is in place just for this season. However, if the league finds success with the play-in, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it tried again.
For me personally, I think the play-in tournament is a great idea. Yes, the Wolves are putrid again this season (scheduled sentence there), but I would have no problem next season living and dying by every late March/early April game if it meant my favorite team had a legit chance to make a mini run into early/mid May. Does the current play-in game structure suck for the seven and eight seed in each conference? Sure, but sacrificing their feelings for additional entertainment seems like a net positive, and could lead to some fascinating scenarios come next month. Can you imagine a one game, loser leaves town match between Luka Doncic and Steph Curry? Sign me the hell up.
What say you? Do you think the play-in game structure is a good idea or a bad one? Feel free to leave your thoughts below as you (and the rest of us in the Canis community) continue to enjoy this well-deserved mini vacation from the Timberwolves.
Be safe and have a great weekend!