By; Jonah Sprinkel
The Wolves of old returned to the court last night in Portland as they lead for the majority of the game before fumbling away a victory in the fourth quarter. The ball stopped moving. Opposing stars hit shot after shot. Thibs yelled. Towns complained. The Jimmy Butler-less Wolves are back in full effect.
What would the Timberwolves basketball experience be without back-to-back primetime road games against potential playoff teams? It certainly wouldn’t be as disappointing. But that’s the Wolves year in and year out regardless of who is playing for, coaching and managing this team. We can only continue to hope that Towns will become a consistent two-way player and that three-point shooting wings would appear out of thin air.
What: Wolves @ Jazz
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
When: 9:30 p.m. CT
Where to watch: ESPN
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
Three things (actually one big thing and one little thing)
1. With only seventeen games left in the season the playoffs are quickly approaching and the Wolves are desperate to break the drought that has plagued this team for what feels like a century. It’s not secret that the Wolves chances of maintaining a top four seed in the West took a dramatic hit after Butler’s injury. Those chances took another hit last night with the loss to Portland. However, there is reason for optimism.
Since the Wolves and Trailblazers split the season series the tiebreaker will go to the team with the better record against the division. The Wolves currently have a 9-3 record and have four games remaining, two against the Utah Jazz and two against the Denver Nuggets. The Blazers on the other hand have a 6-6 record with four games remaining against the Oklahoma City Thunder (x2), the Nuggets and the Jazz.
The current playoff standings for the Wolves and every within the reach of them goes as such:
3. Minnesota 38-27
4. Portland 36-26 (-0.5)
5. San Antonio 36-26 (-0.5)
6. New Orleans 35-26 (-1.0)
7. Oklahoma City (-1.0)
8. Denver (-3.0)
9. Los Angeles Clippers (-3.5)
10. Utah (-5.0)
However, with all the tiebreakers the Wolves own it’s more like:
3. Minnesota 38-27
4. Portland 36-26 (-1.5)
5. San Antonio 36-26 (-0.5) – This could become -1.5 if the Wolves in on March 17.
6. New Orleans 35-26 (-2.0)
7. Oklahoma City (-2.0)
8. Denver (-3.0) This could become -4 if the Wolves win one of the remaining games against them.
9. Los Angeles Clippers (-4.5)
10. Utah (-5.0) This could become -4 if the Wolves win won of the remaining games against them.
2. With the team playing in Utah tonight I want to remind fans everywhere to take a moment and appreciate Timberwolves legend Ricky Rubio. Rubio’s spirit on the court is the embodiment of the game of basketball. He’s upbeat, tenacious, bouncy, and simply a joy to watch. He may no longer wear that blue no. 9 but he’ll always be one of the brightest spots in the history of the Timberwolves organization.
Also, if you’re a fan of the game of basketball I suggest you keep a close eye on Donovan Mitchell. I hear he’s pretty good at this thing. If you’re a fan a gym teachers raining hellfire from deep, keep an eye on Joe Ingles.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Andrew Wiggins, SF Nemanja Bjelica, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Utah: PG Ricky Rubio, SG Donovan Mitchell, SF, Joe Ingles, PF Derrick Favors, C Rudy Gobert
ESPN lists the Jazz as 7-point favorites. Sadly, I must agree. The Wolves struggled last night against the 6th ranked defense in the league. Tonight, they face off against the 4th ranked defense. Without Jimmy Butler this game is just too tall a task for this squad.