Timberwolves

Minnesota Got Help From the Western Conference Then Buried the Kings

Photo Credit: Sergio Estrada (USA TODAY Sports)

Tuesday was an active day as the NBA Trade Deadline draws closer. Many teams are making the approach they will be taking for the rest of the year evident. However, the Minnesota Timberwolves took care of their own business on Tuesday evening against the Sacramento Kings, and they picked up a couple of assists during the day.

As expected, the race in the Western Conference is going to go down to the wire. Currently, the Wolves are in the seventh spot. They are seven games clear of the New Orleans Pelicans, as they cling to the 10th seed. Tuesday night offered Minnesota an opportunity to stomp on a Kings team that had a complete makeover earlier in the day.

Minnesota didn’t disappoint.

Karl-Anthony Towns poured in 25 points, and four bench players chipped in with double digits as the Wolves beat the Kings on their home floor, 134-114. An undermanned Sacramento team made waves earlier on in the day by trading Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton to the Indiana Pacers for a package centered around Domantas Sabonis. The move shocked Kings fans everywhere (check their Reddit page but proceed with caution).

Sacramento appears to be a lost cause again. They got Sabonis, who is well established in the league, but everyone knows what his ceiling is. However, the Kings gave up Haliburton, who was thriving this year and hasn’t reached his true potential yet. It was another move that showed why other teams don’t take Sacramento seriously, and it’s one less team the Wolves have to worry about in the West this year.

The Kings are only three games out of the last spot in the West. Getting Sabonis to pair with De’Aaron Fox will be nice if they don’t trade Fox. But this is a franchise with little direction and a roster that has fractured trust in the front office to make the right decisions. They weren’t the only team that will make life easier in the playoff push for the Wolves down the stretch.

Portland is mailing it in this year. Damian Lillard is hurt, and they traded away CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, and Robert Covington have made it clear that the Blazers aren’t planning on doing any sort of playoff pushing this season. They’re a game and a half out of the last spot. But the moves they have made in recent days, including Tuesday, are geared toward the future. Again, it’s one less team the Wolves will have to worry about when it comes to snagging a spot in the postseason.

What Minnesota does from now until Thursday’s deadline is anyone’s guess. However, it would be surprising to see them make some sort of massive splash move. Their trio of Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell is clicking again, and they have to be pleased with where they are at. The Wolves are sitting at 29-25 while other teams around them in the West continue to implode.

They got help from those two teams and the schedule on Tuesday.

Even though it was an undermanned Kings squad lacking motivation, there are no chip shots on the road in the NBA. Wolves fans know better than most that there are never any “layup” games awarded to Minnesota sports teams. The players are well aware. On Tuesday night, they went out and outscored Sacramento in all four quarters in their decisive 20-point victory. It’s yet another game to reflect on and recognize that this team feels different from past years. Now they just need to keep the good vibes going and start aiming higher.

Right now, the Wolves would be playing in the play-in tournament as the No. 7 seed. However, they are just one game back of the Denver Nuggets for the 6-spot and two-and-a-half games behind the Dallas Mavericks for the 5-seed.

Now is the time for the Wolves to not look behind them but to start looking above. At a minimum, this team should be in the play-in.

At best, they can escape that horrible idea that the NBA unraveled last year and have a traditional first-round series as one of the teams seeded one through six. While this franchise knows all too well never to look too far ahead, it’s almost sure that they will be one of the top ten seeds in the West this year. They should have a shot to make some noise.

Minnesota did its job on Tuesday night. It certainly didn’t hurt to get a bizarre trade from the Kings and Portland to wave the white flag on its season on the same day. Now is the time for Minnesota to keep putting its stamp on this season as they look to continue to climb the ladder.

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