Tracking the T’Wolves – Better Late than Never

Published: April 12, 2012
As the T’Wolves have tumbled to their worst losing streak of the season, Mason asks the question that all Hornets fans must be wondering: why did they wait until April?

The Timberwolves have the longest current losing streak in the NBA outside of Charlotte.

After 3 months of pretending that they were a playoff contender, the Timberwolves have finally grasped their inner tumble, winning as many games thus far in April as Chris Trew has made funny jokes in this column all season. In their current 7-game losing streak, they have been outscored by an average of 12 points per game, allowing over 108 points per contest. In just two weeks, Minnesota has gone from looking like the 3rd best non-playoff team (behind Utah and Phoenix) to cementing themselves behind Milwaukee and Portland, with a chance to fall even further. From here on out, there is good news and there is bad news. Let’s break it down.

The T'Wolves' current losing streak & remaining schedule

First, the good news – Minnesota’s seven remaining games are pretty brutal. Their next four games are against certain playoff teams, all of which are still fighting for higher seeding, and as a result they should lose a minimum of three out of the four, but more than likely all four. Their next two games are at Detroit (coin flip) and home against Golden State (likely win). Their final game couldn’t be more ideal at this point – a matchup with Denver, currently in a 3-way tie for the 6th seed and will likely be trying to avoid both a first round matchup with the Thunder and missing the playoffs altogether. I expect the Timberwolves to go 2-5 in these final seven games, giving them a final record of 27-39. Maybe not as terrible as we had hoped, but given their record of 22-21 at this time last month, suddenly it feels a lot better.

Unfortunately, there is some bad news as well – it is going to take a pretty impressive hot streak by any of the teams below Minnesota in the standings for the T’Wolves to finish any worse than they currently sit. Here are the remaining schedules for the Warriors (22-35), Pistons (21-36), and Nets (21-38), the three teams directly below the Timberwolves in the standings:

 In order to finish the season tied with the T’Wolves (assuming the T’Wolves finish 2-5 as predicted above), the Warriors will need to finish 5-4, the Pistons will need to finish 6-3, and the Nets will need to finish 6-1. I think we can safely rule out New Jersey going 5-1 or better over their next six games against 6 of the top 9 teams in the Eastern Conference, so let’s just focus on the first two.

Golden State’s next six games are all against teams that are playoff-bound, and to at least five of the six teams, the game will likely matter for seeding purposes (San Antonio has been resting their veterans in preparation for the playoffs, so it seems as if they’re comfortable with the 2nd seed). Even if you assume wins against both Minnesota and New Orleans and a split of their two remaining games against the Spurs (no sure thing by any stretch), the Warriors would have to go 2-3 in their games against both LA teams, Dallas twice, and Houston. This outcome would seem to be a difficult yet attainable one; however, it’s important to remember that Golden State will have to trade away its pick if it falls outside of the top 7. Therefore, the Warriors have a bigger reason to throw away games than almost any other lottery-bound team in order to get there, which makes it seem as if a 5-4 record over their final nine games is a fairly unlikely outcome, given their difficult remaining strength of schedule.

As for Detroit – can the Pistons rally to a 6-3 finish and give the T’Wolves a chance to “catch” them? Their schedule actually isn’t terribly difficult; six of the nine games remaining are at home, only four are against against projected playoff teams, and there are no more trips to the Western Conference. Likely losses are vs. Chicago, at Atlanta, and at Indiana, but it’s conceivable that the Pistons can win the other six games; far from likely, but it’s certainly possible. The key game will likely be Friday night when the Bucks come to town. If Detroit can win that one, then the the Pistons will be worth keeping an eye on.

Moral of the story? The Timberwolves are fairly cemented in their current position of the league’s 10th worst record. Crazier things have happened, but it’s going to take an impressive showing from either Golden State or New Jersey to drop Minnesota below them in the standings by season’s end. Somewhat unfortunate, but compared to where the T’Wolves stood a month ago, we Hornets fans should be pretty content with the final outcome.

…of course, if the Tumblewolves finish their last seven games without winning a single one, then anything is possible!


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