Since the NBA All-Star break, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been balling and are chasing the eighth playoff spot with just 17 games left on their schedule and four games back of the Denver Nuggets.
As of now, the Timberwolves sit at the 11th seed in the Western Conference with a 27-38 record and three games back of the Nuggets for the final playoff spot. Surprisingly, the Wolves have been playing well of late, going 6-4 in their last 10 games. When Minnesota lost Zach LaVine to a season-ending knee injury in early February, it seemed as though their struggles were only going to escalate, but that hasn’t been the case.
Even though the Timberwolves lost their most recent game on the road to the Bucks in Milwaukee, signs have been trending upwards for the young and up-and-coming team. Since the loss of LaVine, big man Karl-Anthony Towns and forward Andrew Wiggins have put the team on their shoulders. Towns has played at an elite level in the 12 games played in February, averaging 28.4 points per game, 13.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.
Along-side Towns, Wiggins has been equally impressive through the last 12, averaging 28.8 points per game and 3.8 rebounds with 2.3 assists per game to match. Their most recent uptick in play has been a substantial reason for the recent success the Timberwolves have been seeing. In addition to the offensive output by the duo, the Wolves have been playing solid team basketball in their last 10 games, which has translated to the wins they’ve been accumulating of late.
According to nba.com, Minnesota has been one of the hottest shooting teams in the NBA, sitting seventh in the NBA in shooting, making their field goal attempts at a 47 percent clip. Part of their success shooting the ball has come from their ability to spread the floor and get the ball to the open man. Along with their high shooting percentage, the Wolves have been spreading the ball around the court averaging 23.9 assists per game as a team, which is ninth in the NBA.
Minnesota has been rebounding at a much higher rate as well. In the last 10 games, the Wolves have the second-highest rebounding percentage in the NBA, bringing down 47.7 boards per game. Even their defensive efficiency has seen a rise as of late. In the past three games, the Timberwolves have the eighth best defensive efficiency rating in the league and it’s shown in their play. It seems as though maybe they’ve finally bought into Head Coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive philosophy he’s been preaching all season.
Their most recent victory was against the top team in the West and widely considered the best team in the NBA in the Golden State Warriors. The Wolves barely pulled out a narrow victory, edging out the Warriors 103-102. Stephen Curry hit a late two with just 19 seconds left in the game to give Golden State a 102-101 lead, but Wiggins was able to force his way into the lane and get the Warriors’ Zaza Pachulia to commit the foul. Wiggins then walked up to the line and hit both of his free throws to take back the lead with just 12 seconds left.
Curry tried once again to win the game on a last-second shot, but his attempt was just off and Minnesota’s Brandon Rush came down with the rebound, solidifying the victory for the Wolves. If the Timberwolves have any hope of a playoff birth, they’re going to have to continue their winning ways. With 17 games left and four games behind the eighth seed, Minnesota will have to play some of their best basketball of the season to finish in a playoff spot come season’s end.