Earlier this week, the Minnesota Timberwolves had an opportunity to cement a five-game win streak over a short-handed Detroit Pistons team in what was the Wolves’ first of their final 20 games before we hit the NBA All-Star Break.
Instead, Minnesota got blown out, Taurean Prince rolled his left ankle (which he has had surgery on multiple times over his NBA career), Anthony Edwards was ruled out with a nagging hip injury before surprisingly re-entering, and the vibes were pretty bad.
The following day, we asked Timberwolves fans how many wins the team would need to rack up in the 19 games heading into the break. For the sake of the exercise, we assumed that Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf strain) and Jordan McLaughlin (left calf strain) would not play in any of those contests.
Here are the opponents in that span:
As expected, fans want the team to finish above .500, but are in no way expecting them to gain a crazy amount of momentum before the home stretch.
If I were voting, 11-12 would’ve been where I landed as well. I fully expected the Wolves to beat a decimated Phoenix Suns team on Friday, but definitely did not see the incredible 14-point comeback win over the Cleveland Cavaliers coming last night. When you look at the schedule with more of an honest lens, here are some takeaways:
1) The Wolves will two of their three two-game series
Minnesota plays three of them over their last 19 games, against the Houston Rockets (home/road on Saturday and Monday), Sacramento Kings (home/home to close this month) and Denver Nuggets (home/road next month). None of them are on the second night of a back-to-back, which we all know has given the Wolves trouble over the last few seasons.
2) Back-to-back luck
The Wolves will only eight of the included 19 games are part of a back-to-back set. Minnesota already survived the first one, winning both legs over Phoenix and Cleveland. The next three sets are against the Nuggets and Toronto Raptors (road/home), Memphis Grizzlies and Kings (home/home), Nuggets and Utah Jazz (road/road). Getting the toughest one at home is a big win, especially after how the Timberwolves looked in a resounding win last night. Minnesota is now 3-4 on the second night of a back-to-back this season; that 42.9% win percentage is 15th in the league — perfectly average.
3) Minnesota could have Denver’s number
The schedule makers were not kind to the Nuggets with respect to their matchups with the Timberwolves. Two of the three times Minnesota plays Denver in this stretch will come on the second night of a back-to-back for the Nuggets. Keep in mind that their first matchup with the Wolves was in that same setting, so three of their four battles with Minnesota come on the second night of a back-to-back. Brutal. Considering the Nuggets are the best team the Wolves will play before the break, that’s a huge, huge win.
4) Very few layups
Despite not playing too much top-end talent, the Timberwolves aren’t playing many bottom of the barrel teams, either. Catching an injured Phoenix team was huge, as is getting Houston twice, but that’s where the easy wins run out. Minnesota has proven to be an unserious team against teams in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, with two losses to the San Antonio Spurs, one to the Charlotte Hornets and two to the Detroit Pistons. The Rockets, Hornets and Orlando Magic will all visit Target Center over this stretch, and Minnesota desperately needs to win all three of those games. If they can’t, then 11-12 wins will be hard to come by.
In order to make fans happy, the Timberwolves would need to win 9-10 of their next 17 games. With four potential easy wins, back-to-back luck and the longest homestand of the season included among those 17, that is certainly attainable. But as we know too well with the Minnesota Timberwolves, we can’t assume anything anymore, especially now that Rudy Gobert may miss some time with a right groin injury.
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