Wolves 102, Kings 88: Recent Fun, and What’s to Come
It’s been a good run. Or, set of runs, really.
The most important run, of course, is that the Wolves have won 6 of their last 9 games, and are making a legitimate push for the playoffs. It’s March in 2 days, and they’re 2.5 games out of the 8 seed. This hasn’t happened since Kevin Garnett donned a Timberwolves uniform the FIRST time.
The path to get there is great, with 4 teams standing between them and the Nuggets, who currently hold the final spot. And 1 game behind them sit the new wild card-clad New Orleans Pelicans, who just acquired DeMarcus Cousins.
In short, the regular season’s final month and a half are going to mean something to the Timberwolves. That hasn’t happened in a long time, and that is an exciting prospect.
But within this recent string of success are some smaller tales of fun and excitement. Andrew Wiggins has score over 20 points in 18 straight games, as he continues to eclipse the record he set 2 games ago when he got No. 16 in a loss against the Rockets. On top of that, he’s scored 27 or more in 8 straight games. He’s capped off a great February run, where he put up almost 30 a game, and has Benz and Jim Pete mentioned during tonight’s telecast, should at least get SOME Player of the Month consideration (but, as they also mentioned, a 5-6 month may hurt his odds).
But he’s been doing this since Christmas day. Since the nationally televised broadcast, Wigs has put up 25.1 ppg, .489 FG%, .349 3PT%, 4.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, and shot an impressive 56.2 true shooting percentage. The streak has been insane since the LaVine injury, but it’s important to remember that he’s been damn good for a while now. Most of the season, really.
Speaking of scoring streaks, Karl-Anthony Towns is on pace to topple the old Kevin Garnett record of 16 straight games with 20 or more points. In tonight’s game, he passed Kevin Love to tie KG for third most all-time with 15. If he gets 20+ on Wednesday against Rudy Gobert (a STIFLING task, if you ask me), he’ll follow suit with Wig and tie KG’s former title at 16.
What’s best about this, for me at least, aren’t the numbers. It’s the way they’re getting the buckets. Its full justification in question (again, for me), Wiggins has developed a reputation for the occasional stint of lethargic play on both ends. It can be most frustrating offensively, especially with the fans’ knowledge of what he can do when he’s playing with full-on aggressiveness. His “we’re playing the Cavs, that team that traded me” mindset, if you will. Lately, that type of mentality has seemed to come every night, and that includes tonight.
His mentality when getting the ball has been consistently to attack the basket, whether that means hoisting up a 3 (which he’s been hitting as of late at a fairly consistent clip), or devastating-for-defenders drives to the rim.
KAT has been a beast since he entered the league, but he’s still learning. This is mostly on the defensive end, but there have still been things offensively to work out. Lately, his takes to the rim have been stronger, his passes out of double teams have been crisper and done with more patience. With that has come the ability to get easier shots off. That’s not to say he’s getting defended any easier. The doubles will still come and opposition will still be game planing against him specifically, but he’s learning to cope with it better. The results are showing.
With this fun in mind, there is still a long way to go for the Wolves, and the schedule gets much harder coming up. Tonight’s game was a good one; they gave up fewer than 90 points for the second time in 3 games. They got more good production from Tyus Jones, some nice perimeter defense from Tyus Jones, and one of the best games of Nemanja Bjelica’s career.
But it was also against a Kings team that is still learning to play without their superstar. The previous defensive shutdown came against the consistently inconsistent Dallas Mavericks. And they gave up 142 points, albeit to the Rockets, who do that like it’s nothing.
Coming up, it will be much harder to defend with the results they’ve gotten lately. This is their beginning of March, and their next 5 games.
You can’t look at any of those games and think “yep, that’s an easy win”. The only one that appears like it could be in the Wolves’ favor would be the Portland game, but if you remember the last time these two met up, CJ McCollum ate them for lunch and they didn’t even have Damian Lillard. The Clippers have CP3 and Griffin back, the Spurs are the Spurs, and the Warriors and the Warriors.
But first is the Jazz, a team that some say the Wolves are a year or two behind in terms of potential trajectory. There are a couple big differences here. The Jazz have a deep roster and several players who can beat you on a given night. The Wolves have KAT and Wiggins. What is in the Wolves’ favor is how good they’ve been lately, and the scoring streaks each player has been on. In order to stay in playoff contention (which, I repeat, is a thing in MARCH!), they’ll likely need to keep it up against Utah, over this stretch, and for the rest of the year.
It can be done, but it won’t be easy.