Timberwolves coach Chris Finch lamented another inexcusable loss on Monday in Houston after Minnesota dropped a contest to a Houston team that had lost 13 straight games and 18 of their last 19 on the night.
The Wolves now have six losses this season against the NBA’s bottom four teams – Houston, Charlotte, San Antonio and Detroit. The Pistons swept Minnesota in two weeks over the last month.
For reference, the same Detroit team is in a current stretch of more than 14 quarters without holding a lead.
“We have the ability to beat anyone and we have the ability to lose to anyone and it showed all season,” Finch said. “It’s an immature quality.”
The loser has plagued Minnesota. In a crowded Western Conference, teams can’t afford to squander the gimmes. Had Minnesota won four of those six games it booted for basement dwellers, the Wolves would be resting comfortably in 4th place at the moment and have home field advantage in a first-round playoff series.
Instead, they entered the NBA standings Tuesday in ninth place. geared up for another play-in performance. And it will be a challenge to keep the line in that position.
Because the consequence for Minnesota, who don’t take advantage of a soft schedule, is that the Timberwolves must now try to make good — or at least stand the current — amidst a shale that’s showing one heavyweight after another.
Finch’s theory that his team can actually beat anyone — as evidenced by recent victories over Cleveland and Denver — must stand in the coming weeks as Minnesota’s remaining schedule is the third-biggest in the NBA by opponent record, according to Tankathon.com. It’s the most demanding schedule of any Western Conference team.
Most of the cupcakes are cleared from the table. The Timberwolves have two games apiece against Denver, Brooklyn and Memphis and four more dates with Sacramento, the current No. 3 in the West.
Minnesota’s next four games — beginning Wednesday in New Orleans — are against the current top-four seeds in the West. Ten of the next 11 competitions will be against teams currently ranked in the top 10 in their respective conferences.
Only seven of the Timberwolves’ 33 remaining games are against opponents currently scheduled for the postseason.
This list is why on statistical forecasting sites like FiveThirtyEight, Minnesota is currently missing out on the playoffs, with Wolves finishing with 38 and 40 wins in the site’s two separate models.
FanDuel currently has the Timberwolves’ wins total for the regular season at 38.5 wins. A 38-44 mark would almost certainly miss the postseason altogether.
That’s the hole Minnesota got into with losses like Monday’s. Now the wolves have to earn their success the hard way.