The Minnesota Timberwolves have been on a roll since the new year started. When they played their last game of 2021, a 96-88 loss to the New York Knicks, they were holding a 16-18 record. They didn’t look to be on much better form in early January, when they lost two more games against the Utah Jazz and LA Lakers.
Since then, though, they’ve gone 24-9. They’ve not lost more than two games in a row and currently have four runs of at least four-straight victories, including their current one after they defeated the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks 138-119 in a game where they were a slight underdog.
They now find themselves with a 42-30 record, which is currently good for seventh place and a play-in spot but also isn’t very far from the fourth place Jazz, who own a 44-26 record. That makes things really spicy for the Western Conference, and they could be a tough out wherever they start their postseason. They’re comfortably ahead of the Clippers, Lakers and Pelicans, who currently hold seeds 8-10, so will at the very least be rewarded with two chances to make the postseason.
If they win their first play-in game and make the seventh seed, they set themselves up with most likely the Memphis Grizzlies or Golden State Warriors, who teams who the both have split the season series with at 2-2. While I’m not saying that they’re going to win a seven-game series against either of those squads, they will at the very least put up a good fight and not be an easy out.
If they have to win two play-in games, that also puts them in a position to potentially eliminate the Lakers, before being “rewarded” with the Phoenix Suns. In that situation, well, it’s no slight on them if they don’t do that well, because the Suns are playing on another level this year even with all of the injuries they’ve faced. The Suns have won both of their matchups so far and there’s one more game left between the two sides.
Their great record in 2022 has been fuelled by the rise of their three-headed monster of Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell. Towns has been phenomenal during their current run, averaging 25.3 points, 10.5 rebounds 3.9 assists and 1.1 blocks with shooting splits of 54.6/39.7/82.3. He’s had a couple of great personal achievements too, including winning the three-point contest and notching a career-high 60 points.
Edwards has avoided the sophomore slump and is continuing his strong play with averages of 20.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals. He’s been playing with hunger and dropped his career-high of 48 points earlier in the season in a tough loss to the Warriors. He’s showing himself to be a truly special talent and worthy of being a number one draft pick.
Not to be lost in the shuffle is Russell, who has found a way to thrive even while having to play with two ball-dominant players who love to shoot the rock. He’s putting up a solid 18.4 points, 7.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game in the midst of this run. Russell has shown a willingness to do more playmaking than scoring, and to be fair it must be easier considering that Towns is one of his best friends. Still, though, he’s an excellent talent and could definitely have chosen not to integrate himself into the offense in a more secondary role.
The three stars have also had a lot of good help during this hot run, with three other players averaging double digits in points in Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels and Patrick Beverley (seriously), with Jaylen Nowell narrowly missing the mark with 9.3 points per game.
There’s still a fair bit of basketball left to play before the regular season ends, but the Timberwolves are certainly on the right track to make at least a little bit of noise in the postseason. I enjoy watching young teams start to put things together (like the Memphis Grizzlies), and it might be Minnesota’s turn to pull off a couple of surprises this year. If they can build off momentum this year and continue to improve, they have the youth to put themselves into place as a good playoff contender for the next few seasons.