Timberwolves Push Into NBA Playoffs

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns played when asked by a reporter if he had learned anything on how to win tight, crucial games during his team’s 125-116 loss against the lead. league Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

“For sure, for sure,” Towns said, before stopping to seem to wonder if to reveal exactly what he had learned.

He thought it over well.

“Sure,” he said, “there’s something I realized.” He added, “I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Towns is a fantastic future interview for an NBA star, but these days he has to make a calculation he rarely had to think about before: Anything he reveals about his process could end up giving a advantage of a playoff opponent.

After nearly two decades of living in the lower half of the NBA’s Western Conference, the Timberwolves (42-32) have established themselves as agile, young newcomers who may have some you remain in power as a playoff contender. That is, if they can avoid the pitfalls of the league’s play-in tournament.

“We knew we were in this part where we played on all the top teams,” Timberwolves Coach Chris Finch said. “We said from the beginning when we started, this is what we want. We learn about ourselves. We know what we need to do this time of year to play against these teams.

With eight games remaining in the season, Minnesota has more wins than all but one in the past 16 seasons (2017-18). Two of those seasons were shorter than the standard 82 games: The Timberwolves only played 64 games in 2019-20 due to pandemic, and 66 in 2011-12 due to labor lockout. However, their win percentage this year is better than the shortened periods even if they lose the last eight games.

That 2017-18 season, with Jimmy Butler leading the way to a 47-35 record, was also one of the last 17 when the Timberwolves entered the playoffs.

Their inefficiency in the postseason has always earned them favorable draft positioning, including No.

Edwards has given strength to his play and personality, averaging 21 points per game in his second NBA season and impressing teammates and fans with his resilience, especially before his knee injury in January.

Towns accepted his leadership role. He was especially effective in March, starting the month with 39 points of effort against the Golden State Warriors, and scoring 60 points last week against the San Antonio Spurs.

The Timberwolves rely on veteran guard Patrick Beverley for his defense and the advice he can give as someone with a lot of playoff experience. Beverley has appeared in seven postseasons, including last year, when she was with the Clippers team that reached the Western Conference Finals.

Minnesota’s improvement from last season is obvious, but it has also improved since earlier this season. Minnesota has lost seven of its first 10 games and has its worst season with six consecutive losses in that period.

But now, in March, the Timberwolves have a 9-3 record and they have amassed consecutive wins in four and six games since the All-Star break in February. They are close to getting at least the sixth -best record in the Western Conference, which is now the only way to secure a playoff spot.

Previously, the league would only include the top eight seeds in each conference in the playoffs. But last season, the NBA introduced a play-in tournament for the bottom of its playoff bracket. In it, the teams with the seventh to 10th highest record in each conference will play a mini tournament for the last two playoff spots.

The league is very fond of the change it has put in place this year, and it has generated an unusual level of intrigue late in the two -conference season. The Lakers, who toggle ninth and 10th place in the West, already have a pillow that gives them a second life even if they finish out of the top eight. For the Timberwolves, however, play-in form added a hurdle that didn’t exist in most of their playoff drought.

Sitting now in the standings, the Timberwolves are the seventh seed and will host the eighth-seeded Clippers in their first play-in game. If Minnesota wins, it could be the seventh seed in the playoffs. If it loses, it will play the winner in a match between the ninth and 10th seeds for the right to be the eighth seed in the playoffs.

Last season, the format allowed the Memphis Grizzlies to enter the playoffs with play-in wins against San Antonio and Golden State, despite ending the regular season with the ninth-best record in the West.

Such a fate might be a rude reward for a Timberwolves team that has made such moves this season.

Against the Suns on Wednesday, the Timberwolves saw what a team would look like if they had the experience to shut down and impose their will. The Timberwolves led by 15 points in the third quarter, but trailed by 22 in the second half. The technical and flagrant fouls called against Minnesota are part of the story, but so is Phoenix’s strength in trying to get it back.

With six games more than the eighth-seeded Clippers, the Timberwolves are unlikely to finish below seventh, but they chased down the sixth-seeded Nuggets in just one and a half games.

Grabbing the sixth seed and safely exiting the play-in tournament can be challenging due to the tough schedule that remains. The Timberwolves have now lost consecutive games to the Mavericks and Suns. They will face Dallas again this Friday, then the Boston Celtics, who have tied a 19-3 record since the start of February. They will also clash in Chicago, Toronto and Denver – all in the top seven of their conferences – before the end of the season.

Denver would have been fighting for the Western Conference title this season if not for the injury, especially with pointguard Jamal Murray. On their way, Finch, who was on the Nuggets staff during the 2016-17 season, saw a point of comparison for the Wolves in terms of what should be a fixture in the postseason photo.

“It just takes time,” Finch said. “Especially if you have a young team, a young core.”

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