On March 6, Chris Finch described the Minnesota Timberwolves season as Jekyll and Hyde. “You go through stretches of good and bad, Jekyll and Hyde,” Finch said. With all its ups and downs, this Timberwolves season is a perfect parallel to The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The story that many either have never read or were forced to read in their high school literature class has become a phrase people use to describe someone who displays separate sides of their character.
Occasionally, the Wolves have been a disappointing team, one that lacks discipline, effort, and success. That side has tried its best to keep the Wolves out of the playoffs. Going just 21-21 against teams under .500 has ultimately kept them in the Western Conference’s middle class. If the Wolves don’t lose games to San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets, Orlando Magic, and the Houston Rockets, for example, they are likely sitting pretty as the West’s 5-seed. Finch says “the losses this year have hurt way more in general, just because it feels a lot like blown opportunities”
But that’s not the side of the Timberwolves team I’d like to focus on. Instead, we’ll be focusing on Minnesota’s good side. These are the Wolves that have shown up when it matters most, strapping up against the heavyweights of the West and going the distance. Displaying effort, maturity, and willingness to play as a team. Perhaps they haven’t shown up enough during this season, but when they do, it offers hope for the ceiling they have. This side of the Wolves has consistently bailed out the other, getting a big win immediately after a big loss.
As the two sides of the Timberwolves take turns exchanging blows throughout the season, one thing is for sure, their good side has been winning the battle. Sure, the losses to the league’s bottom feeders hurt their record. But the season series against the teams in contention for the play-in will matter more. The play-in, a tournament that the Wolves are no stranger to, has a massive amount of competition right now. With just about 15 games left in the season, nine teams are still fighting for those four play-in spots.
By taking a look at the standings, you can see which teams are still in the hunt for the play-in;
Despite all their problems against the worst teams in the league, the Wolves have already won half of the season series against their best opponents. The other half has yet to be decided, but halfway through the season, the Wolves have somehow not lost a single season series to any of these teams.
- Portland Trail Blazers: 1-2
- New Orleans Pelicans: 1-1
- Los Angeles Clippers: 2-1
- Dallas Mavericks: 3-0
- Golden State Warriors: 1-2
- Los Angeles Lakers: 2-0
- Oklahoma City Thunder: 3-0
- Utah Jazz: 2-2
We still don’t know who will come out on top in the season series against the Warriors, Pelicans, and Blazers, though. We will know the Golden State series result on March 26, Portland on April 2, and New Orleans on April 9.
All three of these games could easily be considered must-wins because of the Western Conference landscape. As of right now, anyone from the 6-seed to 13 could qualify for the play-in. Therefore, the Wolves have to clean up their flaws to qualify for the playoffs.
Mr. Hyde might have dragged the Timberwolves down in their bad losses, but Dr. Jekyll can still lift them to the playoffs. In their final 14 games, Minnesota will face seven more teams over .500 and seven more teams under .500. It’s crucial that the Wolves pull out all the stops in these games, especially the games that secure season series in the West.
You can be confident that the Wolves will show up in the seven games where they face teams over .500 because they have all season. However, they need to take care of business in their seven games versus the teams under .500. “We can talk all day about something, hit people over the head with it,” Mike Conley said recently. “At some point, the action has to occur. I think we all understand that in the room.”
The Timberwolves have put themselves in a fantastic position to make the playoffs. Their amazing performances against the competitive teams in the West have left them with a lot of season series wins. And those season series wins could prove to be vital to the Wolves’ chances to make the playoffs.