The consensus seems to be, that if you want to make the playoffs in the Western Conference it's going to require your team to win roughly 46-48 games...and that's just the eighth seed. Now at 24-26, do the Wolves have what it takes to go 22-10 in their remaining 32 games to win 46 this season? The easy answer after another blood boiling loss is...no.
In Minnesota's final 32 games, they play Western Conference opponents 21 times and Eastern Conference opponents 11 times. Of those 11 Eastern Conference opponents, four of those opponents are over .500 as of 2/7 (Atlanta .521; Toronto .531; Miami .729; Indiana .796). So, let's assume in those other 7 games, we can beat the sub-.500 teams (it's not probable considering there are teams that are better than their record or are playing better now: Brooklyn, Chicago, New York, etc). However, for sake of argument, let's assume we would beat the teams below .500. Chances are good the Wolves could beat either Atlanta or Toronto (or both) so they could conceivably finish with 8-9 wins in their remaining 11 games vs. the East (highly doubt we beat Indy or Miami). We'll call it 8, with us beating Atlanta.
In the Western Conference we face Dallas, Golden State, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers & San Antonio each once. I'd say we'll beat Dallas & the Lakers and steal one of the games between GSW, SAS & LAC. That's another 3 wins.
We play Denver, Memphis, Phoenix, Portland & Utah two more times each. We beat Utah both times and let's say we split the remaining games between the other three opponents (we've lost to Denver twice already, Phoenix once and we're 1-1 in the other two matchups: POR & MEM). That's another 6 wins.
Then, we play both Houston & Sacramento three more times. For the Wolves to make the playoffs and hit 22 wins, we'd need to go 5-1 vs. these teams (in this scenario).
We can argue back and forth that the Wolves could beat teams like Memphis, Phoenix & Denver in their remaining games and so on...but this (in my opinion) is a fairly accurate representation of what this team could accomplish in these final two months.
Ultimately it's going to come down to beating the teams they've got to beat. Of Minnesota's 32 final games, 19 of them will be vs. teams currently .500 or better.
There's a lot of things you can't point to for what seems to be another "lost season". The most popular choice right now is Rick Adelman. I can't say I agree 100%, but I certainly don't disagree. His rotations simply baffle me. I can't understand the infatuation with Barea, or not playing Mbah a Moute more or sitting Alexey Shved these past few weeks after he was probably Minnesota's best reserve in the month of January or even playing Chase Budinger, who has struggled to find his shot, so many minutes (I understand you want to get him playing time so he can build his confidence back up, but he's looked B-A-D since he returned and there are other options on the bench).
Speaking further on rotations, I've don't think I've ever seen a head coach so resistant to change. Why doesn't Adelman try different starting lineups and different rotations? He's got 15 players on the roster and yet (barring injury) we see the same 9-10 guys every night.
I don't think Adelman is even 20% to blame for this season though. It comes down to the players. These guys just seemed scared to win and scared to succeed. The worst thing about it all is the inconsistencies. One night we'll blow out the Sixers by 20 and the next night we blow a 12-point lead and let the Pelicans (playing without Holiday, Anderson & Smith) come back in the fourth for the W.
Yes, the team misses Pek. Yes, they are a better team with him. Yes, tonight's squad is better than New Orleans' and we should have beat them by 20. Too many times this season we've talked about "if the Wolves don't turn things around quickly they'll find themselves out of the playoffs once again". Tonight is no different...but the next time we let a team like the Bobcats or Bucks or Jazz beat us...it could very well spell the end to Minnesota's playoff aspirations.
Here's a few notes on tonight's game...
The Wolves had just 14 assists, while shooting 37% from the field and 22% from deep. They also turned the ball over 15 times and were outscored in the paint (36-40) by a Pelicans team that doesn't really have a dominant inside force beyond the occasional dunk from Davis. Shows just how many easy layups and putbacks the Wolves allowed from the Pelly guards & bigs.
The bench regressed once again after having a couple nice outings. Their play early in the fourth quarter got the Pelicans rolling and even when Adelman went back to his starters, the Wolves just couldn't get back over the hump. All five reserves finished with negative +/-.
Kevin Love finished with 26 points & 19 rebounds and went 14-for-17 at the line, but shot just 30% from the field. I attribute some of that to his injury-riddled body and another good portion to some questionable officiating. By my count, Anthony Davis & Luke Babbitt each should've fouled out of this game twice! They got away with a lot of fouls in the paint and that turned out to be one of the difference makers--with the Wolves not getting the foul calls down low, they turned to the long ball down the stretch and their 1-for-7 3PT in the fourth is a pretty clear indication of how that turned out.
With tonight's loss the Wolves are two games below .500 24-26 and 5.5 games behind the Mavericks for that 8th seed in the West. Up next? The 35-15 Portland Trailblazers in Minnesota tomorrow night for Minnesota's 4th game in 5 nights.
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!