The Minnesota Timberwolves are ready for the 2022-23 NBA season. They released their schedule on August 17th, which features a couple of key road trips and home stands that will definitely bring the fans out this season!
After a decade, and some, of constant more down than up basketball from the Wolves, their current roster is projected to bring back winning to Minnesota on a consistent, lasting basis. The team had shown us a glimpse of this potential in last season’s playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies, but ultimately fell short in a manner that revealed where they needed to improve and set up an aggressive offseason.
Not only do the Wolves expect to play in front of sold-out crowds this season, but they also are penciled in to play 16 nationally televised games this season. The increase in televised games comes after their blockbuster Rudy Gobert trade and the emergence of third-year guard Anthony Edwards.
With little room for failure, in a Western Conference that now features healthy Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers squads, the Timberwolves have a long road ahead to reach, and even overtake, their No. 7 seed from last year.
Let’s take a look at five critical games that are featured in this season’s schedule.
1) Game 6 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The first key game comes in the sixth game of the season. Headlined by the return of Minnesota folk hero Patrick Beverley to a building that loves him dearly, the Los Angeles Lakers will give the Wolves a good measuring stick opportunity.
tell us the time. we'll bring the show. pic.twitter.com/MxY9TXWYtT— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) August 17, 2022
The Purple and Gold are coming off a rare down year mired by injuries to now-fully-healthy forwards LeBron James and Anthony Davis, as well as coaching distractions. This game also comes after playing teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs, and comes right before the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks, so this is a big game, in terms of the upcoming stretch that follows.
Last season, the Timberwolves didn’t have a chance to play an entirely healthy Lakers team throughout the regular season, and this year they have a chance to make a statement. The duo of James and Davis will face a fellow All-Star front-court in Minnesota, and this will serve as the first legitimate test for Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. We have a chance to see how Gobert matches up against a versatile 5 in AD, as well as how smaller, five-out lineups may choose to attack Towns on the defensive end as well.
Not only is this a chance to make a statement, but a chance to back up the trash talk that came from the Wolves in last season’s games as well. Understandably, there is no Pat Bev, but this is still expected to be a legit test before playing against the top of the NBA soon after.
Minnesota has a chance to really set the tone with this game, as well as see what else they need to improve on as well.
Next, we have a look at a team from the Southwest Division.
2) Game 13 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
If the way last season ended made you emotional, there is a chance the Timberwolves can win your hearts back, on national television, in Memphis, Tennessee.
still not ducking the smoke. pic.twitter.com/m5iJbMWMxD— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) August 17, 2022
The 13th game of the season features Ja Morant and the Grizzlies. At this point, as a Wolves fan, there is no way you are fond of Memphis (no matter how much you may love Tyus Jones), especially after they danced on the logo at Target Center in last season’s series win.
With that being said, the Wolves had them the entirety of last season and in the playoffs. Yes, Minnesota lost the lead. Yes, they lost the series, but Chris Finch’s group led for more than 65% of the series’ minutes and should look to build on that. But that was last season, and the Wolves have some firepower that can withhold Brandon Clarke and Jaren Jackson Jr. from dominating the boards.
The Grizzlies and Wolves ended up splitting regular season games 2-2 last season and we all know what happened in the playoffs. This is a chance at revenge, especially this early in the season, and like the Laker game, we get to see if new acquisitions allow us to fix the problem of rebounding against this Grizzlies team.
Not only is this a chance for the spotlight, but this is also Kyle Anderson’s return to his old team as well!
The next matchup features a Northwest Division rivalry.
3) Game 38 vs. Denver Nuggets
Unlike any other year, this matchup will feature 3 of arguably the top 5 centers in the NBA. Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, and Karl-Anthony Towns are set to matchup in a mid-season battle in Denver.
Last season, it was a battle until the very end between the Nuggets and Wolves, as they were fighting for the sixth and seventh seed in a very deep Western Conference. Not only is this matchup of the bigs, but also key to the standings, as the Nuggets will now have Jamal Murray back in their lineup.
The Wolves actually won the season series 3-1 last season, but are down 85-52 overall in the all-time head-to-head series. In an effort to cut that deficit short, Minnesota will look to change narratives as they head into Denver.
Not only does this matchup feature firepower in all positions, but also the depth on both benches, as there are bucket getters everywhere.
Denver’s acquisitions during the offseason allowed them to come back stronger at their wing positions, as they now have Bruce Brown Jr., an incredible defender and small-ball 5, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is a strong shooter and defensive option on the perimeter.
Bruce Brown has agreed to a 2-year, $13M+ deal with the Denver Nuggets, sources tell ESPN.— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) July 1, 2022
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is signing a two-year, $30M extension with the Nuggets, per @wojespn pic.twitter.com/JPKdOSdhpG— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 14, 2022
Being able to win this game, and the rest of the matchups against the Nuggets will allow the Timberwolves to put themselves in a good spot in the Western Conference, as we saw how interchangeable it was between the two in last year’s race. They are in excellent position to do so, as Minnesota catches Denver not once, not twice, but three times when the Nuggets are on the second night of a back-to-back set.
how tall is our lineup? a mile high. pic.twitter.com/13VgPRaH39— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) August 17, 2022
As we head to second to last, the next game features the defending champions.
4) Game 63 vs. Golden State Warriors
As the Timberwolves head towards the end of the regular season, they embark on their first visit to Chase Center to play the defending champion Golden State Warriors. This game also features now one-time NBA Champion and ex-Wolf, Andrew Wiggins.
Wolves Nation. pic.twitter.com/02xscHtqCq— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) August 17, 2022
Depending on where the Wolves are in the standings in February, this game could end up being very crucial, as the Warriors would most definitely be in the way of Minnesota near the top of the standings. If this ends up being the case, we are in for a playoff-like atmosphere on ESPN.
Last season everybody counted the Warriors out, so who knows; maybe this could be a glimpse at a Western Conference Playoff matchup.
With that being said, the Warriors lost Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II this past offseason, so they will need to replace arguably one of their top three shooters and top three defenders. This does make a difference as it relates to Steph Curry matchups, but on the offensive end, if Curry is able to carry the Warriors like he did last season, tension will be high for the Wolves on the perimeter.
Not only will this game be able to show the Wolves where they stand, but also the necessary adjustments they should take heading into the postseason.
The last game will most definitely have an electric crowd.
5) Game 67 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
This end of season battle against the James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers is going to be one of the best games this season, if it’s anything like last year’s game in Philly. Not only is this tilt one against Harden and Joel Embiid, but it also is a TNT game at Target Center.
we'll take ours wit wins. pic.twitter.com/yuzkD0KinV— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) August 17, 2022
In the final matchup between a pair of squads known to scrap, the Wolves will take the floor in another game headlined by top five centers.
Last season, the Wolves played in Philadelphia in a game where KAT fouled out, and DLO stepped up and secured the win for the Wolves, including multiple game-tying or clutch go-ahead shots. The anticipation for this matchup will be high, as Minnesota will now have time to prepare for Harden and Embiid, so the matchup last year in Target Center doesn’t happen again.
Both of these teams look like underdogs in their respective conferences when it comes to championship contenders, as the media has already trumpeted some form of “This team is one piece away” or “Harden or Towns can’t lead a team” this offseason.
We’ll enter uncharted waters as every game for the Wolves looks to be crucial to their seed in the standings. There will be no time to play, especially with key teams in both conferences looking to be healthy and ready to give it all they have with hopes of contention come next spring.
With Russell, Edwards, Towns, Gobert, McDaniels ready to make a legitimate playoff run with no clear ceiling to stop them, these six games are going to be key for determining how the league will perceive them, and how far the team believes it can go.