By: Jonah Sprinkel
The Wolves will wrap up their 2017 on the road against the Indiana Pacers after dropping a tough one to Milwaukee last Thursday. That loss was the first in six games for the Wolves who had won five straight against the Blazers, Nuggets, Suns, Nuggets and Lakers. This Wolves now sit at 22 and 14 on the year.
The Pacers have lost three straight to Chicago, Dallas and Brooklyn with budding star, Victor Oladipo, sidelined with a sore right knee. Though the Pacers looked to be rebuilding after trading away Paul George, Oladipo has led the team to a 19 and 17 record, good for the East's 7th playoff seed.
What: Wolves @ Pacers
When: 4:00 PM CT
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Where to watch: Fox Sports North
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
What to watch for
Victor Oladipo: Oladipo's status for today's game is unknown but if he plays he should cause problems for the Wolves. Through 33 games Oladip is averaging, 24.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.9 steals with a 55.9 effective field goal percentage. This output helps to fuel the 8th most effecient offense in the league.
Karl-Anthony Towns: The Wolves loss to the Philadelphia 76ers and Embiid's infamous Instagram post seems to have lit a fire under the Wolves starting center. In the last eight games Towns is averaging 21.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.1 blocks while shooting 55.5 percent from the floor and 52.6 percent on 4.8 three point attempts per game.
Injuries: Jeff Teague will be sidelined for two to four weeks with a Grade 1 MCL sprain in his left knee. Andrew Wiggins may not be available for today's game after spraining his ankle against Milwakuee. With a limited and not-so-flexible bench the Wolves offensive production might take a dip as long as starters remain sidelined.
Minnesota: PG Tyus Jones, SG Jimmy Butler, SF Andrew Wiggins (hopefully), PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Indiana: PG Darren Collison, SG Lance Stephenson, SF Bojan Bogdanovic, PF Thaddeus Young, C Myles Turner
The Wolves will return to their winning ways, 107-103, before returning to Minneapolis to start the new year.
By: Seth Toupal
As 2017 comes to a close the Timberwolves find themselves at 22-14 and 4th place in the Western Conference. There have been some interesting patterns that have emerged so far:
It’s fair to wonder if these splits will continue to hold true in 2018. The Wolves just lost Jeff Teague to a knee injury that won’t end his season but will sideline him for a few weeks. Can the Wolves continue their pace without him? Here is what I expect to see from the Wolves throughout the rest of the season.
@ BOS, CLE, OKC, POR, @ HOU, TOR, @ POR, @ GS, @ TOR
The Wolves have some intriguing games right out of the gate to start 2018. Tough matchups against the top teams in the East (Boston and Cleveland), the Wolves first look at Houston and also a very dangerous Toronto team. My prediction is that the Wolves finish the month of January 11-6 to improve to 34-20 on the season.
MIL, NO, @ CLE, HOU, @ HOU
February gives the Wolves a built in break with the All-Star Game coming midway through the month. The Wolves also play home and away against Houston, Sacramento and Chicago; 2 of those series should result in sweeps for the Wolves. Tough matchups against Cleveland, Milwaukee and Cleveland will present challenges but the Wolves will hopefully have welcomed Jeff Teague back by this point. My prediction is a 6-4 finish for the Wolves, winning the games they should but coming up short against Houston and Cleveland. That 6-4 finish puts the Wolves at 40-24 with one full month remaining in the season.
@ POR, BOS, GS, @ SA, HOU, @ PHI
March represents the toughest month on the schedule for the Wolves. With several tough road games against the Spurs, 76ers, Trail Blazers, Jazz and Wizards, and tough home games against the Celtics, Warriors, Rockets, and Hawks, the Wolves will be hard pressed to compete against the best competition in both conferences. The nice thing though is that the Wolves only have 2 back-to-backs the entire month. While it is going to be a tough month I think the Wolves will be able to at least tread through, and I have the Wolves finishing March at 6-7 to give them a record of 46-31.
UTA, @ DEN, DEN
The final push to the playoffs for the Wolves features a very winnable month of April. The Wolves play potential playoff teams in Utah and Denver, but otherwise play the Lakers and Grizzlies. My expectation is that the Wolves finish off the regular season with yet another 5 game winning streak. There is no reason they can’t finish strong. I think they will go 5-0 in April and will finish the regular season at 51-31.
Based on how things currently sit here is what the Western Conference playoffs will look like:
This is all speculation, but it is fun to see if it’s possible for the Wolves early season success to carry through the rest of the year. And it’s also fun to think about where this team can get to if they start to click more as the season continues.
Seth is host of The Scoop on KLGR Radio out of Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Listen to episodes of The Scoop here.
By: Dan Slaubaugh
5. The story of Tyus through the eyes of his mother - by Dan Slaubaugh
This piece, to the help of retweets by Tyus, Tre, and their mother Debbie, received great viewing numbers and feedback from the Timberwolves community. Thanks again to Mrs. Jones for being kind enough to participate.
4. Nine realistic goals for the 2017-18 season - by Louie Vicchiollo
A great layout of analysis and visuals, Louie did a phenomenal job laying out nine realistic goals for the 2017-18 season. To name a few: have a winning record, top 20 in defensive rating, and top 20 in attendance.
3. Karl-Anthony Towns and the Next Steps To Greatness - by Dan Slaubaugh
KAT's defense has been the talking point the moment we started having real expectations from him. This piece highlighted his defense and what he needs to do to become a premier defender in the NBA.
2. An Ode to Ricky Rubio - by Dan Slaubaugh
For better or worse, moving on from Rubio was a monumental decision in Timberwolves franchise history. In the end, trading Rubio looks like the correct move from Tom Thibodeau but I'll always miss the boyish charm and enthusiasm the Spaniard brought to the table.
1. The arrival of Jimmy Butler and what it means for the Minnesota Timberwolves - by Jonah Sprinkel
Rightfully so, this was the most viewed article in 2017. The franchise-changing acquisition has been everything the Wolves could have asked for and the main reason the teams sits 22-14.
By: Nathan Brinkman
The Timberwolves return to the Target Center to face the Denver Nuggets after defeating the Lakers on the road on Christmas day. The Wolves have been playing some improved basketball as of late and played a 10-man rotation for the first time in several games with the return of key reserve Nemanja Bjecila who missed the previous 15 games.
The Nuggets have been an improved basketball team this season despite an injury to key free agent signing Paul Millsap early in the season.The Nuggets hold the sixth slot in the Western Conference standings with a record of 19-15. Center Nikola Jokic has been a large reason for the team's success as he is averaging 16 points 10 rebounds and nearly five assists per contest. Jokic is one of the premier passing big men in the NBA.
What: Wolves vs. Nuggets
When: 7:00 PM CT
Where: Target Center. Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Where to watch: Fox Sports North
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
What to watch for:
Jokic vs Towns: This is a matchup people around the league will be surely tuning in to see. Two of the best young big men in the NBA are facing off at the very beginning of their potentially storied careers. Karl-Anthony Towns got the edge in the first meeting between these two teams as he scored 25 points leading the Wolves to victory.
Jamal Crawford: J-Crossover was huge for the Wolves in their first contest against Denver, scoring 20 points off the bench. Crawford has been playing very well offensively as of late this has been instrumental in the Wolves' success as a team. Look for Crawford to be scoring in bunches off the bench once again in tonights game.
Rivalry: Both of these teams are fully aware of what is at stake in this game. The Wolves and Nuggets sit at fourth and sixth in the conference right now respectively. Both of these teams are also fighting for the division title, which neither has won in several years. The Nuggets are one of the Wolves truest rivals and expect a level of intensity to be present all game.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Jimmy Butler, SF Andrew Wiggins, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Denver: PG Jamaal Murray, SG Gary Harris, SF Wilson Chandler, PF Mason Plumlee, C Nikola Jokic
The Wolves have been playing very well lately, therefore I think they can pull this one out at home.
Wolves win 112-97.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game. Go Wolves.
By: Dan Slaubaugh
From everyone at On The Prowl, Merry Christmas. We hope your days will be filled with joy, laughter, and Wolves wins through the New Year.
For the second straight year, Christmas brings a different taste to Wolves fans as their favorite team will lace it up for the second time in franchise history on this special day.
While excitement is certainly high for tonight's game against the Los Angeles Lakers (11-20), Minnesota (20-13) needs to take advantage of a winnable game and gain separation from competing rivals in the West.
What: Wolves @ Lakers
Where: Staples Center. Los Angeles, California.
When: 9:30 PM CT
Where to watch: TNT
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
What to watch for:
Kyle Kuzma: With Lonzo Ball injured (shoulder sprain), the Wolves can place more focus on the better but less hyped rookie who’s played so well that Luke Walton has inserted him into the starting lineup at the four. Averaging 17 points and 7 rebounds per game, Kuzma has quickly established himself as one of the young pillars of a rebuilding roster. Personally, I’m excited to watch his high-octane energy and talent on display tonight on a national stage.
Bench production: Providing just 25.5 points per game, the fourth fewest in the league, the Wolves bench has performed poorly through 33 games. Lately, however, they’ve performed respectably in large thanks to Jamal Crawford. After a three game stretch of 2, 2, and 6 points, Crawford has responded by shooting an efficient 51.2 percent from the floor on 13.7 shots per game. They could be getting back PF Nemanja Bjelica tonight, who was a key contributor in the Wolves rotation but hasn’t played since November 22.
Patton in uniform: Minnesota’s 16th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft will don a Wolves uniform for the first time in his NBA career tonight. Patton was initially assigned to Iowa on Dec. 3. He appeared in six games, averaging 9.5 points on 48.9% shooting, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 17.5 minutes per game. His role tonight is up in the air, but if head coach Tom Thibodeau calls his name, all eyes will be watching the young rookie.
-The Wolves are on an island as the No. 4 team in the conference right now, several games behind the Big Three (Golden State, Houston, San Antonio) but a few games in front of the likes of Oklahoma City, Denver, and New Orleans.
-Over the last 11 games, Jimmy Butler is averaging 26.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists.
-The Sports Emmy Award-winning team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal will call the game action, in addition to their traditional pregame, halftime and postgame coverage, live from Staples Center.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Andrew Wiggins, SF Jimmy Butler, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Los Angeles: PG Jordan Clarkson, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Brandon Ingram, PF Kyle Kuzma, C Andrew Bogut
Wolves win 109-100. Wiggins pours in 33 points because it’s a national TV game.. KAT grabs another double-double. Jimmy Butler gives us the best Christmas gift we could possibly ask by turning to LaVar Ball and shushing him after nailing a dagger three-pointer.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game. Have a wonderful Christmas.