The Timberwolves have already guaranteed themselves a better season than last year when they won just 31 games. Not many teams can say that in this town — not the Vikings, Twins, Gophers men’s basketball, Gophers women’ hockey. As for the Wild, we’ll see. The Timberwolves with 34 wins are hanging around the .500 mark. That is good for 10th place in the rugged NBA Western Conference.
Five, maybe six teams in the West — San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, Houston, Portland — will win 50 or more regular-season games. Winning 50 games out of 82 is an outstanding NBA season.
Some teams take it for granted, like the Spurs, who have won 50 of their first 66 games again. In fact, the Spurs have won 50 or more games an NBA-record 16 years in a row and currently have won 13 straight games.
The Timberwolves are the fourth-highest scoring team in the league at 106.3 points per game. They are exciting to watch. All-Star forward Kevin Love is fourth in scoring 26 points and third in rebounding 12.8 a game. Guard Rick Rubio is third in assists at 8.6 per game. Guard Kevin Martin is scoring 19 points a game. The Wolves need culture change — they are last (.471), 30th in the league in opponent field goal percentage. Scoring is not the Timberwolves‘ problem; getting consistent defensive stops is.
Sunday in a must-win game at Target Center vs. Phoenix, the team ahead of them they had to beat. The Wolves led by 22 points and blew it, losing 127-120. Nearly 18,000 fans witnessed the second-half collapse.
With 14 games left, that all but kills the Wolves’ playoff chances. This is the 25th anniversary season of Timberwolves basketball, and they have not been a playoff team in eight years. Questions circle around Target Center over how long is too long before Love wants out like Kevin Garnett.
Or, will Coach Rick Adelman return next season as coach? When you miss the playoffs or have a losing season, everything is up for grabs. A return to the NBA lottery is inevitable for the Wolves. The NBA has 30 franchises, and more than half, 16, qualify for the playoffs.
Franchises that have qualified most for the NBA lottery? Golden State (18), Los Angeles Clippers (17), Timberwolves (16), as in years, as in heartache if the Wolves miss the playoffs again. It would mark nine straight seasons and 17 total, tying the LA Clippers for second place. Is that progress? When is enough enough?
Stay tuned, hoop fans — being in the lottery has no reward with the Wolves when, for example, two years ago they drafted forward Derrick Williams No.2 overall, the highest draft choice in franchise history, and traded him. What does it all mean? That it is not working in Minneapolis.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to [email protected], or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.