The Minnesota Timberwolves snapped their seven-game losing streak and Karl-Anthony Towns is (somewhat) healthy. Wahoo!
They are coming off a 96-88 win over the San Antonio Spurs. While Towns returned in Saturday night’s loss to San Antonio in overtime, he was held out the next day against the same Spurs team that was without DeMar DeRozan.
The team said that Towns’ absence was planned.
So, where are we now?
The Wolves are 3-7, still last in the West. However, there are some reasons for optimism as hard as that might be sometimes for this team. Towns is back. Is he 100% healthy? Judging by how much pain he seemed to be in on Saturday, I would say probably not, but he still managed to finish with 25 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
A healthy Towns puts this team back to where we were three weeks ago when the season started. The Wolves were 2-0 and people weren’t trying to break into the US Capitol. Seems like years ago, really.
Let’s not sleep on how important having Josh Okogie back is, either. He is the team’s best wing defender and while the Spurs’ offense was a mess on Sunday night without DeRozan, Okogie also plays a big part of that.
I hate to say “these next three games are super important!” but, well, THESE NEXT THREE GAMES ARE REALLY IMPORTANT!
There’s a decent chance that the upcoming part of the schedule will dictate what happens with Minnesota’s season.
In the next week, they host the Memphis Grizzlies before traveling to play the Atlanta Hawks. The Grizzlies are really bad without Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. — they are 3-6 and are likely going to land another top-5 pick. Long-term, that’s scary for the rest of the West, but in the short-term, it’s good news for a team that is trying to get back into the playoff picture like the Wolves.
There’s no reason why they shouldn’t win both games against Memphis, especially considering there is a day between each game and Towns should be able to play in both games.
Atlanta has been bit hard by the injury bug as well. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari and Kris Dunn are all expected to miss significant time, which is a huge reason why they have dropped four straight games after starting 4-1.
There’s a scenario in which the Wolves can win all three games and inch back to 6-7. But it also feels like there’s a chance the Wolves go 1-2 or 0-3 and fall to 4-9 or 3-10. It’s hard to say “put the nail in the coffin” after 13 games, but that would be tough to come back from in a competitive West.
The good news for the Wolves is that D’Angelo Russell is playing better. You’re never going to get plus defense from Russell, so you just accept that. But that’s why his offense is so important. If he’s struggling offensively, he really doesn’t give you anything. Over his last four games, Russell has averaged 25.5 points per game while shooting 41.4% from the 3-point line.
More of that, please.
Hey, You Should Listen To This!
Here’s my shameless plug. On Monday, we launched the first episode of The 10,000 Layups Podcast. Julian Andrews and I are hosting the show. If you listened to The Layup Line with the Timberwolves, it’s a pretty similar vibe, except we can actually say what we want this time around.
What to expect? Fun basketball chat. We’ll talk about the Wolves, but we also talk about a lot of other things.
Our next show will be posted on Thursday. Haley O’Shaughnessy, formerly of The Ringer and now with Blue Wire Pods, will be our guest.
You can subscribe on Spotify or wherever you get your pods.