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.