The season has begun, and more eyes are on the Minnesota Timberwolves this season than ever. The pressure mounted on Minnesota leading to the NBA regular season. It is possible, in fact very likely, that the Timberwolves will be making their first playoff appearance since 2004 this season. Even though the Timberwolves are part of a stacked Western Conference, Minnesota has a strong roster, with multiple players that can perform on both sides of the ball. On top of their home-brewed talent in small forward Andrew WIggins and Center Karl-Anthony Towns, the acquisitions of shooting guard Jimmy Butler, point guard Jeff Teague and shooting guard Jamal Crawford have transitioned the team from the young team with the potential to a star-studded team ready to win now.
If you did not read the previous entry to the Minnesota Timberwolves feature, you can find it here:
Season (So Far) In Review
The Timberwolves began the regular season with a loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are a defensive-minded team that match up extremely well with the Timberwolves. Even without San Antonio’s star small forward Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs were able to win by eight, with good performances by power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and shooting guard Danny Green.
On the Minnesota side of things, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns were at the helm for the team. Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague, and Jimmy Butler all made their presence known, but their inability to take care of the ball on offense and crash the boards on defense resulted in their loss to the Spurs.
Despite the loss, the Timberwolves still looked like a serious playoff contender, putting up a good fight against a stacked Spurs lineup. Two days later, Minnesota racked up their first win in a three-point victory over the Utah Jazz, thanks to a more even scoring distribution among their star players.
In their second huge test as a playoff team, the Timberwolves took on and defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team with three legitimate stars, headlined by point guard and reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook. This two-point victory came after Andrew Wiggins hit a three-point shot with zeroes on the clock to win the game. On top of the game-winner, the entire starting lineup scored in double figures, including forward Taj Gibson, who also had 10 rebounds, racking up his first double-double of the season. The upset win over Oklahoma City cemented Minnesota’s presence in the Western Conference as a serious playoff contender, and not just hype from big-name offseason acquisitions.
After losing Jimmy Butler to illness for two games and dropping back-to-back games to the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, it had seemed that Minnesota had wasted the momentum of a big win against Oklahoma City. However, Butler’s return proved to be vital, as the Timberwolves defeated Oklahoma City once again, headed by Towns’ 33 points and 19 rebounds and Jimmy Butler’s first 20 point performance as a member of the Timberwolves.
Their second win against Oklahoma City was the first of five straight victories for Minnesota, bringing their record to 7-3 and among the top in the Western Conference. During this stretch, the starters and Jamal Crawford took turns dishing out big performances and contributing an overall team effort to string together important wins early on in the season.
The winning streak came to an end in Minnesota’s first matchup against the defending champion Golden State Warriors, where the Timberwolves lost in a blowout. This came as no surprise, given that it is early in the season for the Timberwolves, and asking them to defeat the Warriors in their first meeting with a new team is a tall order. However, an eight-point defeat to the struggling Phoenix Suns had shown a gaping hole in Minnesota’s game that was pointed out by Jimmy Butler: defense. The Timberwolves had let up 35 points to both Devin Booker and TJ Warren, players who are by no means superstars, especially Warren. This comes as a shock when looking at the fact that this Minnesota squad is coached by Tom Thibodeau, one of the better defensive minded coaches in the game today. This loss will presumably serve as a wake-up call for Minnesota, and hopefully, help them get back on track defensively in order to truly contend come playoff time.
Where Were they This Point in 2003-04?
Through 12 games, the Minnesota Timberwolves were in the same spot as this team is now. The team was 7-5, led by their homegrown star forward Kevin Garnett and newly acquired guard/forward Latrell Sprewell, very similar to the success of Karl-Anthony Towns, a homegrown forward and newly acquired guard Jimmy Butler. Unlike this year’s team, the Timberwolves found themselves in the seventh seed, which slightly more uncomfortable than the sixth seed the Timberwolves presently reside.
What’s in Store for Next Week?
The Timberwolves have four games slated for next week, highlighted by their second matchup against the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday and a game against the surprisingly hot Detroit Pistons on Sunday. From a Minnesota perspective, it would be desirable to win half of the games they have this week, preferably to have one of those come against the Spurs or Pistons. This week will be a true test for a struggling Minnesota defense, and at least a pair of stellar defensive performances can convince fans that this team is truly scary.