With an 18-19 record, the Minnesota Timberwolves are still on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. They are the current 10 seed in the Western Conference and are just 3.5 games out of the eighth spot. They do get a break in the schedule this week, however, as three of their next four games are against teams that are also currently under .500.
Their next game is Wednesday night against the Sacramento Kings who are 13-22, and they then travel to Toronto before taking on the lowly Utah Jazz two games in a row. The Toronto Raptors are the only team above .500 they will face in that four-game stretch, but it’s still a game the Timberwolves should be expected to win.
The NBA season is approaching the halfway mark soon, and if the Wolves don’t start gaining on the eighth place Phoenix Suns they very well could miss the playoffs entirely. The team hasn’t taken the step forward many thought they would this season, but with Chase Budinger looking good in his three games since returning from injury, they very well could be setting up to hit their stride.
Nikola Pekovic is another player who’s stepped up lately and could really help the Wolves take the next step to becoming a legitimate playoff squad. Pekovic is averaging an impressive 18 points and nine rebounds so far this season, but he’s averaging 22 points in the month of January and even topped 30 points in one game this month already. Once throwing in his three double-doubles in six games this month it’s easy to see him and Kevin Love are turning into one of the better power forward-center combos in the league.
This next four-game stretch should be the launching pad the Timberwolves need to get Love and Pekovic on the same page, turn Ricky Rubio‘s shooting woes around and most importantly get ready for a tough Friday and Saturday matchup next weekend. The Timberwolves take on the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers at the end of next week, so going into those games hot could be the boost in confidence this team desperately needs.
The Timberwolves continually prove they can contend with the league’s best teams, but they’ve done a great job giving games away lately and simply cannot afford to continue this trend. If the Wolves look strong in these next four games and steal a win from the Warriors or Trail Blazers, it may just be the turning point for this underachieving squad.