March 12, 2012

Reason for Optimism

As it stands this very moment, the Minnesota Timberwolves are still only 1 game behind Houston for the #8 spot in the West, a game and a half behind Dallas at #7, and only 2 games back from Denver at #6.  On the flip side, Portland, Phoenix, and Utah are all within a game of Minnesota, with Golden State only 2 behind.  In a shortened season, literally every single game is going to make a significant difference in the chase for that playoff spot which seemed to slip a little from the grasp of the Wolves on Friday night with 16 seconds left.  Only 4 games now separate #6 through #14 in the West with a little over 1/3 of the season to go.  Without Ricky Rubio's presence these final few weeks, I wondered if it's even worth it to consider a playoff run at this point, especially after the performance on Saturday night against the Hornets.

Then, I saw a ray of virtual hope in John Hollinger's Playoff Odds on ESPN.  I don't know too many people who can accurately predict the future, so again, this is just a ray of hope.  Hollinger's computers have the Wolves finishing in a 3-way tie with Portland and Houston for 8th place in the West.  And, with the tie-breakers over both of those teams currently in favor of the T'Wolves, this would mean a first round matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Even Hollinger's odds still had the chances of making the playoffs for the Wolves at only 43.9%, so it's not likely, but there's still hope.  I also am not sure on how much Rubio's injury plays into how the computer's break down each game, but the system does seem quite thorough and at least gives us something to chew on.

What was a little more interesting to me from this prediction was that the #8 spot could be had by a team finishing 33-33.  This would mean the Wolves would have to go 12-12 down the stretch to have a shot at that last spot.  To me, that is still realistic to expect from this team.  The Wolves have exactly 12 games remaining against teams that have a worse record than them, and 12 left with teams who have a better record.  With only 9 home games remaining, versus 15 road games, it seems they would be at another disadvantage.  However, the Wolves have been .500 both home and away this season, and seem to play just as well, if not better, on the road.

Another thing the Wolves have going for them is the recent struggles of the teams that are in the playoff mix with them.  The Rockets have lost 6 of their last 7, and Kyle Lowry is now out for a few weeks as well.  Portland is 7-12 since February 2nd after getting off to a hot start.  Dallas has lost 8 of their last 10, and leads Minnesota by only 1.5 games.  Utah is only 7-14 since February 1st.

Phoenix is a scary team coming up from behind.  The Suns have won 5 out of their last 6 and just beat the Wolves by 9 a week and a half ago at US Airways Center.  A victory tonight would put Phoenix back at arm's length again.  Houston goes to Oklahoma City tomorrow night in what I would expect to be a Thunder win, putting the Wolves back in the #8 spot with a win tonight.

I am going to miss Rubio running this offense the rest of the season, but a win tonight in Phoenix would be huge to the team's confidence in their ability to move on now and continue in this run they are making this year.  I really hope Rubio's lack of presence on the floor will not be the crutch that keeps this team from making it.  I expect Ricky's positive attitude through all of this to be an inspiration down the stretch.  I hope I am not wrong.

Note: Don't forget to submit your bracket for the Wolves Rubes March Madness Challenge.

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1 comment:

  1. And with the win last night against Phoenix, the projected record for the Wolves went up to 34-32 with a 54.1% chance of making the playoffs! If only Hollinger's system was absolute truth...great win last night, though.