What’s up with the Minnesota Timberwolves?
Things are looking up for the young Timberwolves. After a mediocre middle of the season which dropped them into the bottom of the play-in standings, they’ve found their groove and are finally putting together a nice little run to end the regular season.
Minny has won four straight games. But these aren’t just four wins against bottom-of-the-barrell teams. These are four wins over teams fighting for the playoffs. The biggest of these four was their dub against the Golden State Warriors. That allowed them to not only close the gap for the sixth seed, but even overtake the Warriors momentarily in the standings.
The Timbwerolves are slowly getting the pack back together. After missing out most of the season due to a calf injury, Karl-Anthony Towns is back in the lineup and provided a big boost to the team. He scored 22 points to help them come back from a huge deficit against the Atlanta Hawks, and hit the go-ahead bucket in their win against the Warriors. Anthony Edwards also returned to the lineup after missing a few games due to a sprained ankle.
The biggest performer in their past four wins has been Rudy Gobert. The much-maligned center averaged a 13-13 double-double during that stretch. He’s locked down the paint and has done his job on the boards. He’s also been low usage which means there’s still plenty of shots to go around with KAT and Ant back.
The Warriors have once again overtaken the Wolves in the standings. That makes this game against the Phoenix Suns a must-win if Minnesota wants an outright playoff spot.
What’s up with the Phoenix Suns?
The Suns are smack dab in the middle of the playoff picture, holding on to the fourth seed with a 40-35 record. But that doesn’t mean their place is safe. They’re currently only a half game ahead of the fifth seed and only 1.5 games away from the play-in. A couple of bad losses could send them way down the standings.
Phoenix didn’t envision this battle back in February when they acquired Kevin Durant. They thought that with Durant, they’d be fighting for a spot as one of the top teams in the West. Unfortunately, Durant injured his ankle to start the month and has only played three games with his new team.
Devin Booker has done his best to carry the load for the Suns. In the 10 games that Durant has missed, he’s averaged 31.7 points per game including 44-point and 46-point explosions. That’s allowed the Suns to win four of the 10 games that Durant has missed and stay afloat in the standings.
That’s the good news. The better news for the Suns is that Durant’s status for the game against the Timberwolves has been upgraded to questionable. That’s a step in the right direction, which means he could make a return in the next game. His return could boost the Suns’ chances to extend their win streak to three games.
Storyline to watch out for
The Suns had a nice flow in the three games that Durant played for the team so far. During that stretch, Booker even took home Player of the Week honors. Chris Paul let go of his scoring and focused on playmaking. DeAndre Ayton got easy shots inside with Booker and Durant demanding so much attention.
The question now is can the Suns resume building on the chemistry that they had during that stretch? How limited will Durant be after yet another injury this season? Will he mess up Booker’s hot streak?
These aren’t just questions to be answered during the Timberwolves game but moving forward in the season. Phoenix’s championship run depends on how well Durant can mesh with the rest of the team in their upcoming games.
This is anyone’s game. Both teams are welcoming back their All-Stars at the right time. With so much at stake, this is going to be an incredible battle.
As hot as the Timberwolves have been so far, it’s just tough to bet against Durant. At his best, he’s a game-changer that could single-handedly win this game for the Suns.