By: Seth Toupal
WHERE’S THE FLAG?
I remember frantically scanning the screen, searching for the latest way that the state of Minnesota was going to have its heart ripped from its collective body, in the wake of arguably the greatest moment in Minnesota sports history, the “Minneapolis Miracle” as it has been dubbed. Yet no flag (that mattered anyway) ever came, as Stefon Diggs was mobbed by his teammates and a state of fans who have seen countless examples of utter devastation began to realize that this time the football gods gave them the big break. The Vikings had shocked the New Orleans Saints, a team who 9 years earlier beat the hell out of one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game and stole the souls of Vikings fans all over the earth. A team who despite trailing by 17 points at the half staged one of the most prolific comebacks in NFL Playoff history. A team whose head coach took our rallying cry and used it against us after kicking what he believed was the game-sealing field goal.
But then something happened
With time winding down the Vikings shocked the football world with their stunning walk off win, sending the entire state into a frenzy that carried from house to house, city to city, and from sport to sport. One of the most memorable moments from the aftermath of the Vikings win was the celebration videos from Target Center and the Xcel Energy Center. Fans screaming and jumping up and down in their seats and breaking out into Skol chants throughout the games. The Skol chant has always been a “goose bump” moment for me as a fan of sports in this state, and if you haven’t seen the camera shot from Sunday of Case Keenum leading the entire stadium in the Skol chant before lining up in victory formation do yourself a favor and track it down online. This state has seen a fair share of heartache, but amidst the chaos and unfiltered joy of Sunday a question came into my mind.
Why can’t this same thing happen to the Wolves?
It’s easy to forget with what all happened at US Bank Stadium Sunday that the Timberwolves were also in action and whether they fed off of the cosmic energy beaming down on the Vikings that night (I like to think they did) the Wolves proceeded to throttle the Portland Trailblazers and seal one of the most dominant home stands in recent memory. A 5-0 home stand against the Pelicans, Cavaliers, Thunder, Knicks and Trail Blazers with their “closest” win being by 10 points is incredible. Let’s not forget that the Wolves now sit at 29-17 entering Thursday’s game against the Rockets and despite the letdown in Orlando trail only the Warroprs. Rockets, and Spurs in the Western Conference. The offense is humming behind rock-solid efforts from Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and of course Jimmy Butler. The defense has truly turned a corner.
The Timberwolves already hold a tiebreaker against the Thunder and depending on how things play out could very well hold several more against key Western Conference Opponents. Target Center has sprung back to life; fans are flocking to watch these Wolves lay the smack down on almost a nightly basis. Kind of reminds me of when another Minnesota sports franchise turned the corner. That franchise just advanced to the NFC Championship game with a chance to play in the Super Bowl in its own stadium. That franchise entrusted immense talent to a coach who sometimes rubs people the wrong way, but in the end gets exactly what he needs from his players.
There is no reason the Timberwolves can’t do what the Vikings just did
In a season of truly spectacular moments the Wolves stand near the top amidst the best teams in the NBA. Golden State continues to cruise along. Houston is trying to keep their composure. San Antonio is trying to stay healthy. The Cavaliers seem on the brink of a complete meltdown. Yet despite all of the early concerns the Timberwolves present a very real threat to what we call “business as usual” in the NBA. It was always going to be a matter of time until the Wolves finally started to click but I don’t think anyone saw things getting to quite this level. No one beats Lebron by 41 points. How could anyone expect to beat Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony? The Timberwolves have those answers people.
The Timberwolves on any given day can beat any other team in the NBA. If they play within themselves and play to the strengths that got them to this point, then there is no reason the Wolves couldn’t pull off a similarly shocking miracle come playoff time and advance to the Western Conference Finals. Can they beat Golden State 4 times in a series? Who knows, but having just seen the Vikings exercise their demons in truly unforgettable fashion I no longer feel like the Wolves should just “wait until Golden State gets old”. Go right at them as a pack, in true wolf fashion, and fight until the end. And maybe the basketball gods will throw a bounce our way here and there for fans across the state, and for Flip, who I’m sure had that exact same question in his head many years ago.
Seth is host of The Scoop on KLGR Radio out of Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Listen to episodes of The Scoop here.