Despite coming off one of theif best starts since 2004, the Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves with a legitimate chance to miss the playoffs for the fifteenth consecutive season. Just weeks ago, sitting at a record of 36-25 and third in the Western Conference, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that the Wolves would break their historically long postseason drought. That all came to an immediate halt when all-star Jimmy Butler went down with a torn meniscus against the Houston Rockets.
In their first games without Butler, the Wolves were able to pull out wins against bottom feeders such as the Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings, giving many Wolves fans cautious optimism that the Wolves could still make the playoffs. The Wolves success without Butler did not carry over to the past two games where they lost to the Portland Trailblazers and Utah Jazz, two teams that are also in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt. With only a two-game lead over ninth seeded Utah Jazz, the Wolves are officially in do-or-die mode trying to make the playoffs.
Because the Wolves are in such a tight race to make the postseason, win-or-go-home basketball is starting a month earlier than expected. Looking ahead, the Wolves next six games come against postseason bound teams. Thankfully, the Wolves have been gifted five days off before they kick off their brutal upcoming schedule. For the Wolves playoff hopes to stay alive, they likely need to win at least two of the next six games. That task seems much easier said than done as the Wolves have struggled without their best player on the floor. For Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, this is their chance to prove that they belong in the conversation of being two of the league’s best young players. In the eyes of many Timberwolves fans, no player needs to step it up more than Andrew Wiggins.
Up to this point, Andrew Wiggins season has been a disappointment. The former number one overall pick has shown almost zero improvement statistically since his rookie season. Wiggins’ apologists claim that his down performance is due to the fact that he is the third option on a team that runs an offense that is not conducive to his skill set. Whether one believes this or not, we can all agree that Andrew Wiggins needs to show up big in the Timberwolves closing stretch for the Wolves to break their long playoff curse.
Wiggins and the Wolves’ closing playoff push will come to fruition this Thursday, at home against, the second-best team in the East, the Boston Celtics. This is a golden opportunity for the Wolves to start their season-ending stretch the right way, as reports today say that the Celtics could be without all-star guard, Kyrie Irving, due to knee soreness. Brace yourselves Wolves fans, we have been waiting for the Wolves to be in this position for over a decade now. The playoff race is in full throttle. Enjoy the ride.