The time for admiration is over. Staying afloat despite a devastating rash of injuries was enough for a while, but now the Minnesota Timberwolves reach an impasse. They will either remain relevant in the Western Conference playoff picture or float back to the lottery for yet another season. With six consecutive home games on the horizon, the 'Wolves need a winning streak to simply reach the .500 mark with their current 17-24 mark.
The math is sobering. Most seasons it takes 47 wins to make the playoffs as the 8th seed in the Western Conference. If that were the case this season, it would already be time to draft the team's obituary. A 30-11 mark the rest of the way, without Kevin Love, will not happen. This season the requirement for the final seed will be closer to 42 wins. Besides serving as a source of relief for panicked Los Angeles Lakers fans, this number sets the mark for other fringe/mediocre teams.
The Timberwolves need to somehow log a 25-16 mark the rest of the way to have any hopes of a playoff berth.
Presumably an extended home stand is an excellent opportunity to string together wins. It will be more complicated for the 'Wolves in the next two weeks as their slate reads like a who's who of the toughest opponents in the league. The Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, and New York Knicks all rumble through the Target Center during this stretch of games. The schedule also includes the aforementioned Lakers, whose desperation for victories drips from each overdone Sportscenter segment about their struggles.
Foremost in the team's recent struggles is how badly they miss head coach Rick Adelman. Already struggling to ignite the team, assistant coach Terry Porter then found himself in the cross hairs of controversy when he chose to play JJ Barea over Ricky Rubio for the entire 4th quarter of a loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Team offense gave way to hero ball as the team grasped for offense, one of a number of issues Adelman needs to address as the team prepares for the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night.
In addition to Adelman, Nikola Pekovic (quad injury) and Alexey Shved (sprained ankle) will both return to the lineup from their latest injuries.
The low point of the season to this point in the team's recent 2-9 mark in Adelman's absence. A losing home stand, which is a real possibility, would only extend the misery. The 'Wolves, with improved health and their head coach back in the fold, must find a way to stop the bleeding against some tough opponents. That task starts with a game against the Clippers Wednesday night at the Target Center (7:00 P.M. CST).