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