Minnesota Timberwolves: Potentially the West’s most dangerous dark horse

NBA Minnesota Timberwolves Andrew Wiggins (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
NBA Minnesota Timberwolves Andrew Wiggins (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves might’ve just sneaked into the NBA Playoffs, but they could be the West’s most dangerous dark horse

There was no shortage of excitement in the Minnesota Timberwolves final game of the season, as the Wolves edged out the Nuggets 112-106 in an overtime thriller to clinch the 8th and final Western Conference playoff spot.

In an essential play-in game for both teams, you could feel the playoff intensity on every possession and the refs were letting them play on both ends.

For Minnesota, the win ends a 14-year playoff drought and gives their fans their first taste of the postseason since the KG era. It was business as usual for Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and even Derrick Rose as all of the former Bulls are no stranger to postseason play, albeit in the weaker Eastern Conference.

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The former Bulls are now joined by Karl Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague as they square off against the Houston Rockets, the No. 1 overall seed in the conference, in first round.

The Rockets won all four games against Minnesota in the regular season with an average margin of victory of 15.8 points. While this would seem to implicate a short series in the making, there is more to the story for Minnesota.

Jimmy Butler got hurt in their third matchup of the year, and consequently missed their fourth matchup.

Jimmy returned just in time for the playoffs after notching his third game back last night, logging 42 minutes in the process. It appears there will be no minutes restriction on Butler throughout the playoffs and we all know Thibs will not be shy about getting his studs all the run they can handle.

For Minnesota to advance to the second round they will have to limit the pick and roll offense of Houston.

If I’m in the locker room for Minnesota, it starts with looking at Game 6 in the Western Conference Semifinals last year with the Rockets taking on the Spurs. The Spurs seemingly laid out the perfect blueprint for limiting James Harden and this was without their best defensive player, Kawhi Leonard.

While the Rockets have added Chris Paul to their arsenal this year this is certainly a team with a lot to prove in the playoffs. Mike D’Antoni, James Harden and Chris Paul have all been known for their great regular season success, yet none of these guys have a ring to show for it in the postseason.

It’s fair to wonder if D’Antoni’s coaching style can succeed in the playoffs when stakes are higher and intensity is at an all time high.

For the Timberwolves to have any success in round one and beyond this postseason, they will need significant contributions from Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns on both ends of the floor.

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The key to getting out of round one for Minnesota will be stealing one game in Houston and taking the homecourt advantage back to Minnesota.

This is a team with fans that have not experienced the postseason in 14 years and you can be assured the Target Center will be rocking when Minnesota returns home on April 21, for Game 3 of their opening round series.