Minnesota Timberwolves Are Sending NBA an Emphatic Playoff Warning

The 2021-22 NBA season has been a breath of fresh air for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns has improved in every area, and second-year guard Anthony Edwards is developing some skill to go along with his otherworldly athleticism.

Those two are leading the new-look Wolves, but Minnesota is also getting significant contributions from veterans D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley and young players like Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid.

The organization has more hope this year than it has in quite a while.

But that hope is turning into more — the Timberwolves are in the midst of a run that has them streaking up the Western Conference standings, in the process proving themselves to be a legitimate playoff threat.

The Minnesota Timberwolves routed the reigning NBA Champions as part of a dominant run

As part of a four-game win streak, the Wolves beat the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks by 19 on March 19. That marked their 11th win in 13 games.

Milwaukee was playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo, but Minnesota played well enough to win even if the Bucks did have their two-time MVP.

Edwards had 25 points, Towns had 25 points and 11 rebounds, Russell scored 16 points (on 4-of-8 from three) and had nine assists, and Reid and Taurean Prince each added 14 points off the bench.

It’s the Towns-led-but-balanced offensive performance Minnesota has become familiar with.

Another thing the Timberwolves have gotten familiar with lately? Winning.

KAT and Co. have quietly been the NBA’s best team since the All-Star break

Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves will be a force in the NBA playoffs.
Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves gets teased by teammate Nathan Knight after he scored 60 points against the San Antonio Spurs. | Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been the NBA’s best team since the All-Star break. Take that in for a minute. I’ll wait.

To repeat: The Minnesota Timberwolves have been the NBA’s best team since Feb. 24.

The T-Wolves have won 11 of 14 games, tying them with the Boston Celtics for the league’s best record during that span. But Minny is No. 1 in the NBA in scoring, No. 1 in offensive rating, No. 3 in defensive rating, and is outscoring its opponents by nearly 12 points per game.

Towns is averaging 26.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks over the last month, including a 60-point performance.

“Any time we step on the court, we should win,” Towns said via ESPN. “Simple as that. There’s no excuse. We don’t feel that we should lose to anybody. We feel we can beat anybody.

“So, every time we walk into the arena, we feel we should win. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we feel it’s a guaranteed win.”

“Timberwolves” and “guaranteed win”? Those are two things that haven’t gone together since the Kevin Garnett era. He left Minnesota in 2007 and just had his jersey retired in Boston.

The Timberwolves are a legitimate postseason threat

The Wolves have made the playoffs once since 2003-04.

That was four seasons ago when Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Derrick Rose, and Jimmy Butler squeaked in as a No. 8 seed and lost in five games to the Houston Rockets.

But this year, as of March 22, Minnesota is 42-31 and just a half-game back of the Denver Nuggets for sixth in the West. If they can leapfrog Nikola Jokic, they would avoid the play-in tournament.

But as it stands, if they do finish seventh, the Timberwolves would face the Los Angeles Clippers without Kawhi Leonard or Paul George and would have two chances to win one game for a real postseason berth.

The franchise hasn’t been in this position in 18 years, but it’s not a mirage.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are for real, no matter how strange it sounds. And Western Conference playoff teams should beware.

All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.

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