Timberwolves Can Still Steal 6th Seed

Photo: David Berding - Getty Images

Last night’s win over the Houston Rockets wasn’t pretty. There was little defense played and the Minnesota Timberwolves allowed a 27-point lead dwindle to single-digits in the 4th quarter. But when the clock hit zero, the left side of the W/L column moved up to 45 and the right side stayed at 34. So, mission accomplished.

It was an eventful weekend throughout the NBA. The Wolves had to wait until Sunday night to get in on the festivities. Losing to the Rockets wasn’t an option, if they wanted to keep any chance of swooping in and stealing the Western Conference 6-seed before the 82-game regular season comes to a close on April 10.

Earlier Sunday, the Denver Nuggets beat the floundering LA Lakers, all but killing LeBron & Co’s chances of making the play-in tournament. With the win, Denver jumped over Utah, who lost to Golden State on Saturday night, and landed in the 5th seed, still 2 games better than Minnesota. That meant the Wolves looked up, after beating Houston, and saw it was the Jazz now sitting above them (by 1.5 games).

Western Conference Standings

  1. Phoenix…………… 0.0 GB – clinched
  2. Memphis…………. 7.0 GB – clinched
  3. Golden State…. 12.5 GB – clinched
  4. Dallas…………….. 13.5 GB – clinched
  5. Denver…………… 15.5 GB
  6. Utah………………. 16.0 GB
  7. Minnesota……….. 17.5 GB
  8. LA Clippers………. 23.5 GB
  9. New Orleans……. 28.0 GB
  10. San Antonio…….. 29.0 GB
  11. LA Lakers……….. 31.0 GB

Timberwolves Remaining Schedule

The Minnesota Timberwolves have three games remaining and should be favorites to win all three. Both the Spurs and Wizards have losing records and the Bulls could be resting for the playoffs by the season finale.

  • 4/5: Washington Wizards (34-44)
  • 4/7: San Antonio Spurs (33-45)
  • 4/10: Chicago Bulls (45-33)

Nuggets Remaining Schedule

The Denver Nuggets play on all the same nights as the Wolves, through the rest of the schedule. Memphis is the only team remaining on their slate who has a winning record. They’re already slotted into the 2nd seed in the Western Conference.

  • 4/5: San Antonio Spurs (33-45)
  • 4/7: Memphis Grizzlies (55-23)
  • 4/10: Los Angeles Lakers (31-47)

Jazz Remaining Schedule

Here’s where things get a bit more interesting. The 6th seed Utah Jazz are losers in SIX of their last SEVEN games and have one extra contest remaining on their schedule, than the Wolves and Nuggets.

TWO of their opponents (Grizz, Suns) sit atop the Western Conference. Should Utah lose both of those games and Minnesota win on Tuesday and Thursday, the Wolves and Jazz would enter the last day of the regular season (April 10) with the same record.

  • 4/5: Memphis Grizzlies (55-23)
  • 4/6: Oklahoma City Thunder (23-55)
  • 4/8: Phoenix Suns (62-16)
  • 4/10: Portland Trailblazers (27-51)

Tiebreakers

The Timberwolves hold the tiebreaker over the Nuggets but not over the Jazz. So finishing with the same record won’t be enough to overtake Utah for the 6th seed.

To avoid the play-in tournament, Minnesota needs to win out. Then, either the Jazz find a way to lose 3 of their last 4 OR the Nuggets lose 2 of their remaining 3. Neither are likely to happen but the Jazz have lost a lot recently and have a pretty hellish schedule remaining, as long as the Suns and Grizzlies aren’t resting key players this week.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan