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Cup of Canis: The Home Stretch

There are just six games left in the regular season. Can the Timberwolves make one last push?

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics Photo by Kathryn Riley/ Getty Images

Due to a slight scheduling hiccup on my end, we didn’t get a game recap published after last night’s game. My sincere apologies about that, but if you weren’t able to watch the game on Sunday, here’s an instant recap performed by two of Hollywood’s most famous actors, with Chris Rock playing the role of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Will Smith starring as “The Boston Celtics.”

The Celtics thoroughly dismantled the Timberwolves on Sunday 134-112, which catapulted Boston into the top seed in the Eastern Conference (technically tied with the Miami Heat).

As for Minnesota, the latest loss pushed their record to 43-33, which means they are still comfortably situated in the 7-seed in the Western Conference, 1.5 games back of Denver and 2.5 games back of the suddenly free-falling Utah Jazz (who as of this morning now reside in the 6th spot). As we’ve been saying for a couple weeks now, it’s going to be an all-out sprint to the regular season finish line in both conferences, with the top four teams in the East separated by 0.5 games and 4-7 in the West separated by just 3.5 games.

A quick glance at the Timberwolves remaining schedule shows three more road games this week (Toronto on Wednesday, Denver on Friday, and then Houston on Sunday) before returning to Target Center to close out the season with three straight home games. Friday’s game against the Nuggets will probably determine whether or not the Wolves can catch Denver, but if they cannot, all hope is not lost — just look at Utah’s current situation.

The Jazz finish the season with the Clippers, Lakers, Warriors, Grizzlies, Thunder, Suns, and then Blazers to cap off their regular season. That may not appear to be the most grueling schedule ever created, but when you factor in the laundry list of injuries to Rudy Gobert, Hassan Whiteside, Bojan Bogdanovic, and now Donovan Mitchell, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Wolves could catch Utah before it’s all said and done.

Back to Minnesota — the Timberwolves currently sit at 43-33 with six games remaining. As I tweeted out earlier on Monday morning, this team’s final record is going to blow past what the experts in Las Vegas predicted, which was anywhere from 33-35 games.

Under no circumstances is this an attempt at providing moral victories after getting slapped at the hands of Will Smith the Celtics yesterday, but I do think it’s important context when discussing how this regular season (and eventual postseason) plays out. After yesterday’s loss in Boston, I saw a handful of tweets saying something along the lines of “if the Timberwolves don’t figure it out soon, they are going to be a first round and out team come playoff time.”

As a fan myself, I would never try to police how a person supports their favorite team(s), but again, context matters. Gersson Rosas, Minnesota’s former President of Basketball Operations, was fired 188 days ago. The team’s biggest free agency “splash” last summer centered around re-signing their two restricted free agents. The Minnesota Timberwolves had as many draft picks in the 2021 NBA Draft as the Minneapolis Lakers did.

I say all of that to simply say — regardless of how these last two weeks (+ postseason) plays out, this will undoubtedly go down as one of the most successful seasons in franchise history. That’s pretty sad, no doubt, especially if the end result is getting bounced in the play-in tournament, but if you’re going to constantly reference the “Old Wolves” when trying to analyze the “New Wolves,” be sure to also cite the record of those “Old Wolves” teams, because only once since the 2004-05 season has this franchise finished the season with more wins than losses.

You don’t get to graduate to a contender in the NBA as a freshman or sophomore. As I mentioned last week, the Timberwolves have just ONE player under contract next season who is 27 years or older (Patrick Beverley, 33). They have all their draft picks (and then some). They have new ownership who has brought in fresh energy (and not so fresh feet). They will likely commit long-term to both Chris Finch and Karl-Anthony Towns before you light off bottle rockets on Independence Day.

I don’t know exactly how these next few weeks will play out, but I do know that being a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves is fun again, and for someone like me who uses sports as an escape from the real-life issues taking place on a daily basis, I think that’s pretty damn cool.

Go Wolves.