The Minnesota Timberwolves have won 7 of their last 9 games. A run of form in which they claimed the scalps of multiple playoff teams and reminded us all of how this season was meant to be played out. It is often said that winning cures everything, but while the afflictions of the Timberwolves are more sinister than any run of wins can fix, it has undoubtedly returned the prospect of hope to both team and fans. There may be illness but at least the colour has returned to the patient’s cheeks.
Form is a fickle thing. It certainly makes for storylines but throughout an entire 82 game season there will always be a noted ebb and flow that creates an illusory difference in the teams play. Occasionally, of course there are times when a team has turned a corner or the figurative river has irredeemable picked up its pace for good.
The first two thirds of the season I spent being confounded by the simplicity of the Timberwolves. They would usually beat the teams that were worse than them and most likely they would lose to the better teams. We usually expect sports to be like this, but in reality the Timberwolves had attained a rare level of predictability. Their predictability, almost paradoxically, was in their night-to-night inconsistency keeping them firmly in the middle of the pack. They had become the middle-class of the NBA and in doing so turned the mysterious element of ‘potential’ into the mundane.
This recent run of form, regardless of it’s permanence, has at least recaptured the excitement sport should always carry . I definitely was not expecting victory over indomitable contenders like the Indiana Pacers or even to keep up with the free-running Phoenix Suns. Is this what I should expect from the Adelman/Love era? Your answer is probably dictated by your outlook on life , of course. However, with the roster almost healthy (Ronny Turiaf, the lone wounded), it does seem like things have come together for this team.
Kevin Love has been playing out of his mind all season in truth and so I like to think this upturn in form showcases his ability rather than proves it. It was already proven in the eyes of those who can discern excellent play within a losing effort. Remarkably his assist percentage has crept above his rebound percentage and his plus/minus numbers are among the highest in the league, but this isn’t all that surprising. It is a little boring to just peddle the same statistics but his PER of 28.1 is MVP -worthy in a non-Lebron year.
As for Ricky Rubio, the mercurial point guard has become everything that makes sport alluring. His natural game is so riddled with flaws, yet he remains undeniably watchable. The foreign gunslinger who has literally and figuratively grown up playing a different game to the rest of his teammates. He is the marauding gunslinger spraying passes wherever he wishes, whenever he wants. His shot was always hurting, but now it has been beaten to death (I am as guilty as anyone) to the point where it may never return. The free throw numbers have now become the ultimate portent for his effectiveness, without foul shots he is destined for a single figure points average for maybe the rest of time.
The bench now fully incorporated into this side has provided both energy and viable offensive alternatives. The Timberwolves have crept back into the top 10 for offensive efficiency. Budinger’s return to effectiveness and Shabazz Muhammad’s timely arrival into relevance has provided both an outside threat and an athletic post-up bulldog, respectively. ‘The Bazzmanian devil’s’ is maybe the most intriguing player on a roster devoid of controversy and mystery (not an insult!), in a dull rookie class he has at least one of the few to single handedly swing a game in his team’s favour. How he projects eventually into a starting role is a tricky problem, worthy of much more rumination. His inside game is excellent but he is playing on a roster crying for offensive skills further from the basket, if his game remains effective pushed further outside he can become a useful, versatile threat.
I don’t think it is a good idea if you are prone to expectation and optimism, but if you have a look at the remaining schedule you will notice two things. First of all, the end is in sight for the exhausting regular season with 5 weeks and 21 games to go. Secondly, this schedule is not that strong. A run is possible but with that I am a little fearful. If the Timberwolves’ chain of predictability is broken then I have no idea where the next 21 games will take them. Knowing the team’s luck it will probably take them to the 9th spot in the West, missing out on the playoffs AND the team’s top-13 protected draft pick.
With games unplayed though, optimism surely wins the day. There is no margin for error whatsoever, but I don’t believe Shabazz Muhammad believes in margins for error anyway. There probably is not an available playoff spot up for grabs, but for now now at least the Timberwolves have returned to the race.