Timberwolves Looking to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

Timberwolves Looking to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

Sam Casillas, Staff Writer

As the NBA regular season enters its final week, the Wolves are looking to hold on to the number nine seed in a very close Western Conference. They must stay above the 10th seed in the conference to secure a spot in the play-in tournament. 

Since the All-Star Break, it has been tough sledding for the Wolves. With a record of 8-10 since resuming play, the Timberwolves are now fighting to keep their season alive. With just four games remaining, Minnesota is treating every game as a must-win. If there was ever a time to go on a run and heat up, it would be now. One thing that has been an issue for the Wolves since returning has been staying healthy.

Since losing star guard D’Angelo Russell in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers on the last day of the trade deadline, the team has been forced to play without some of their other star players. One player missing time has been standout guard Anthony Edwards, who despite only being in the league for three years, has already become one of the games biggest young stars, averaging 24.5 points per game. The explosive Edwards is an all-around offensive threat that relies on his incredible athleticism to finish in the paint, pair that with his tremendous ability to shoot the step back jump shot as well as the three ball, the six-foot-four guard is a threat to defenses anytime he touches the ball. 

Another key player they are hoping can stay healthy is the three time All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns. A calf injury has sidelined Towns and allowed him to only play 26 games this season. In those 26, he has averaged 20.3 points per game and has been an outstanding presence in the paint, using all of his seven foot frame to disrupt opponents shots and dominate the glass. On the other end of the floor, the big man has incredible footwork down on the low block and is incredibly light on his feet, allowing him to be extremely effective in the paint. Because of his tremendous play down low, KAT often draws a double team and with great vision, he is able to find the open man to create offense. Towns has also shown that he is not afraid to shoot the long ball if given some open space, truly making him a matchup nightmare that will be a key piece in the Wolves playoff run if he can stay healthy. 

To add to the list of injuries, the Wolves are also without one of their role player centers Naz Reid, who will be sidelined for the rest of the season after breaking his hand on March 31. The injury ended his season and will require surgery, leaving the Wolves coaching staff scratching their heads a bit to fill his role. With this injury, the Wolves lost a key player off the bench. The six-foot-nine Reid was a huge part on both ends of the floor. On the offensive side, he was an effective screener with great court vision and passing ability. On the defensive side, his seven foot three inch wingspan allowed him to contest shots well without fouling. This injury is a bigger loss than some may think, because it leaves the Wolves a bit undersized, putting a heavy workload on star center Rudy Gobert. With the lack of size in the Wolves rotation, they have not been great at crashing the boards and are currently sitting 26th in the league in defensive rebounding.

The playoff situation as it stands has the Timberwolves in ninth place,behind the eighth seeded New Orleans Pelicans by just one game. That eighth seed is crucial for each team’s playoff hopes — getting the eighth seed means you have two opportunities where a single win gets you into the playoffs, while a ninth seed has to win two games in-a-row. 

After gameplay on April 4, where the Wolves beat the Brooklyn Nets and the Pelicans fell to the Sacramento Kings, the remaining matchups for each team seem to favor Minnesota. The two squads will go head-to-head in a regular season finale on April 9, but before then the Pelicans have to face strong teams in the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies, while the Wolves face off against the lowly San Antonio Spurs, a match they should win, despite past struggles this season against other losing teams. 

“We’ve got to treat every game the same and that’s just something we haven’t been doing,” Edwards said in a postgame interview with ESPN. 

With a season record of 14-16 versus losing teams, the Wolves know that they should not take the Spurs lightly. As for the San Antonio squad, they have already been eliminated from playoff contention but  would love nothing more than to spoil Minnesota’s chances of making a playoff run. 

As the two superstars Towns and Edwards are still battling injuries, both of their statuses remain day to day. As the clock on the season continues to run out, the squad is hoping for its stars to make their way onto the court to keep the squad’s season and championship hopes alive.