April 9, 2018, 4:21 pm
Win, and you can rest easy for the night. Not quite how the saying goes, but so long as the Wolves take care of their own business other teams can do some of the dirty work for them. This weekend the team hoped for a little bit of help, but that didn’t happen. Now they root for one of the playoff teams to win.
On Friday the Wolves beat the Lakers, and the other five teams still in pursuit (the four ahead and one behind) each had games slated for the weekend, so the Wolves could sit back and watch the chaos unfold. There was a scenario, with losses across the board, where the Wolves could climb to fourth. Unfortunately each team won, with only the Jazz finding resolution when they clinched on Sunday evening.
Now it’s down to five teams for six spots and there’s a number of wild scenarios that could take place. The fourth through the ninth seed is still in play for the Wolves, but they’re only focused on one scenario right now. Win tonight, root for the Spurs to beat the Kings and root for the Blazers to beat the Nuggets.
That trio of outcomes leads the Wolves to clinching their first playoff birth in 13 seasons tonight. Depending on how things go in the game, the Wolves will probably be the first game to reach a final. The Spurs tip-off a half hour after the Wolves, while the Nuggets are an hour after. The Wolves are likely to be watching in anticipation after the conclusion of their game, perhaps the whole arena, wondering if they can celebrate.
Regardless of the other team’s outcomes, though, the Wolves just need to win. If they win their final two remaining games, no combination of wins and losses from the other teams can keep them out. Everything could be resolved tonight, but if this weekend (and the last few weeks) is any indication the Wolves shouldn’t rely on other team’s to do any favors.
Except for Memphis. The Grizzles’ injury report reads like a baseball lineup card with the amount of players on it. The Grizzlies are on a different path, a loss tonight can clinch the second-worst record in the NBA and therefore the second best odds to land the first overall pick in the draft.
A number of these guys are seriously hurt and there’s little reason to risk further injury for others, but the tough one to swallow, for Denver Nuggets’ fans, will be Marc Gasol resting. It’s worth noting, though, that Gasol played yesterday (a victory over the Pistons) and Gasol hasn’t played in the second of back-to-backs since the All-Star break.
This wasn’t a planned job to affect the playoffs, and it makes sense that Gasol played on the front end, as opposed to the back end, because yesterday was the Grizzlies final home game. It’s unfortunate that it came down to this, especially when Gasol was so dominant in the Grizzlies two victories over the Wolves (yes, they’re 2-0), but this was inevitable going back to February.
Instead of the Grit-and-Grind the Wolves will face off with a team that resembles something closer to that of a G-League squad. Four of the starters are 22 or under with one year or less of experience, and Ben McLemore is the lone vet at 24 years old in his fifth year. This team did just beat the Pistons, but that was with Gasol who nearly had a triple-double.
This will be the third and final matchup with the Grizzles. The Wolves will have faced three completely different iterations of this Memphis squad. They were unable to crack the first two, getting to the final one could make-or-break their season.
One Game playoff:
There’s a scenario out there that makes Wednesday’s game the equivalent of a MLB Wild Card play-in game, or a NCAA tournament play-in game, however you want to slice it. If the Wolves, Spurs, Pelicans, Thunder and Nuggets all win tonight, Wednesday’s Nuggets-Wolves game becomes a win-or-go-home game.
As much as the peace of mind of clinching a playoff spot tonight would be ideal (and deserving for Wolves fans waiting years for this moment), the prospects of that game would be astronomical. Gary Harris is finally healthy again, meaning both squads would be at 100 percent health. There would be no excuses, just a good old-fashion cage match.
It would arguably be more entertaining than the following series with the Houston Rockets with either team, as Houston is 7-0 against the Nuggets and Wolves with a double-digit margin of victory.
It would be stressful, heartbreaking, jubilant, intense and emotional, all of the things that make sports great. Perhaps Wolves’ fans don’t deserve that kind of roller-coaster ride of emotions and would rather clinch on their terms, but after 13 years, is there really any other way it should happen?
Jeff Teague – PG
Jimmy Butler – SG
Andrew Wiggins – SF
Taj Gibson – PF
Karl-Anthony Towns – C
Kobi Simmons – PG
Ben McLemore – SG
Dillon Brooks – SF
Ivan Rabb – PF
Deyonta Davis – C
Justin Patton (illness) – OUT
Mike Conley (Achilles) – OUT
Tyreke Evans (personal) – OUT
Marc Gasol (rest) – OUT
JaMychal Green (knee) – OUT
Andrew Harrison (wrist) – OUT
Jarell Martin (ankle) – OUT
Chandler Parson (knee) – OUT
Wayne Selden (knee) – OUT
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
When: 8:00 ET/7:00 CT
How: Fox Sports North
April 19, 2019, 10:26 pmPascal Siakam - F - Toronto Raptors
Pascal Siakam dropped an efficient 30 points on 13-for-20 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds, four assists and three threes in Friday night's 98-93 win over the Magic.
Siakam led Toronto in field goal attempts on a night where Kawhi struggled to make a consistent impact and his team needed every bit of it to outlast a pesky Orlando team on the road. The Cameroonian forward has been on fire to start the playoffs and will look to keep it going in Game 4.
April 19, 2019, 10:19 pmKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard had 16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and one steal as the Raptors were able to find enough scoring from the supporting cast to beat the Magic on Friday night.
Aaron Gordon matched up with Kawhi for most of this one and did a good job keeping him uncomfortable as he struggled with a 5-for-19 shooting night. Head coach Nick Nurse indicated after the game that Leonard has been dealing with an illness that kept him from practicing the last two days so that may have had something to do with his struggles as well.
Source: Mike Ganter on Twitter
April 19, 2019, 10:12 pmKyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry posted 12 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, two threes, one steal and one block in Friday's win on the road against the Magic.
Not only did Lowry have a nice full line, he made a lot of hustle plays that helped Toronto to an ugly playoff win on the road. He is responding nicely after struggling in Game 1, proving that he can be productive in the playoffs.
April 19, 2019, 10:05 pmDanny Green - G/F - Toronto Raptors
Danny Green notched 13 points with three three-pointers, one steal and one block on Friday night.
On a night where Kawhi didn't have it going from three (0-for-3), Green stepped up with an efficient shooting night and his trademark defense to help Toronto win an ugly one on the road.
April 19, 2019, 10:00 pmNikola Vucevic - C - Orlando Magic
Nikola Vucevic finally looked like himself on Friday night as he dropped 22 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and one steal as the Magic fell 98-93 to the Raptors at home.
Vucevic broke out of his playoff slump, but unfortunately Orlando dealt with poor shooting nights from DJ Augustin (3-for-7) and Evan Fournier (1-for-12) that ultimately sunk them on their home floor.
April 19, 2019, 9:53 pmAaron Gordon - F - Orlando Magic
Aaron Gordon only scored 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting with seven rebounds and one steal on Friday night.
While Gordon's line doesn't jump off the page, it was Kawhi's struggles from the field (5-for-19) that highlighted the impact he had on this game. Gordon's strong defensive effort helped the Magic stay alive on a cold shooting night but it wasn't enough to win.
April 19, 2019, 9:46 pmJonathan Isaac - F - Orlando Magic
Jonathan Isaac chipped in a solid performance on Friday night against the Raptors with 14 points, seven rebounds, two steals, two blocks and two made threes.
Isaac was a big part of how Orlando was able to keep the game close in the first half, but his struggles from the field (4-for-11) and three (2-for-7) kept him off the floor in the fourth quarter as the his team attempted a final comeback.
April 19, 2019, 9:40 pmTerrence Ross - G/F - Orlando Magic
Terrence Ross played 32 minutes off the bench and scored 24 points on 8-for-17 shooting, including five made threes and two steals in Friday's loss to the Raptors.
On a night where the Magic got virtually nothing from Evan Fournier, Ross came through with a huge performance. Unfortunately, the big game from Ross wasn't enough for Orlando to overcome a poor night from its starting guards and a lackluster effort on the defensive boards.
April 19, 2019, 8:39 pmBlake Griffin - F - Detroit Pistons
Blake Griffin (left knee soreness) is listed as questionable to play in Saturday’s Game 3 vs. the Bucks.
Griffin has already missed the first two games against Milwaukee. Detroit hasn’t been very competitive without him and they’ll need the big man if they hope to even up the series at home. Thon Maker would likely get another start if Griffin isn’t able to play.
Source: NBA INjury Report
April 19, 2019, 6:03 pmTony Snell - G - Milwaukee Bucks
Tony Snell (left ankle sprain) is not on the injury report for Saturday's Game 3 vs. the Pistons.
Snell has been expected to miss Games 1 and 2 (he did) so it looks like his timetable to return is correct. He's an important part of what the Bucks do but his value isn't as apparent in fantasy. Snell also might be eased into it since he's been out of action for a while.
Source: NBA Injury Report