Their early schedule was pretty brutal. Lots of back-to-backs on the road and against really good teams. Lots of one game home “stretches” that required a ton of weird travel. The strength of schedule has been tough as well. Heading into tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards, the Wolves are tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the third toughest schedule this season.
Of the top 10 toughest schedules in the NBA, only the Golden State Warriors (17-13), Phoenix Suns (17-10), Oklahoma City Thunder (23-5), and San Antonio Spurs (23-7) have winning records despite their tough slate to begin the season. The Wolves had the next best record of the bunch at 13-15. They have been treading water and avoiding going under, even though their inconsistent play has been driving a lot of fans and people around the area crazy. The stink of 10 sad years of basketball has been unfairly placed on this current version of the Wolves, not properly resetting expectations and feelings of what this roster is in the process.
Correcting mistakes like that is part of the process. We saw the Wolves do it against the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this year — unacceptable road loss to a team that should be beneath them, followed up by a trouncing when they came to the Target Center. The Wolves managed to keep that trend going with a win over the Wizards in convincing fashion. The Wolves were rusty early and down 9-0 in the first 2:30 of the game. The groans started to come out, almost a reflex at this point. Then they got their excrement together.
That’s where we get back to the schedule. If this Wolves team is any good (and by that I mean playoff good, which I believe they are), then this stretch of games until the end of December is something they will take advantage of as long as they’re relatively healthy. They have short travel to Milwaukee Friday night to play the Bucks on a second night of a back-to-back for both teams (Bucks lost in Brooklyn Friday night). They’re home for the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. They’re home for the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday and then stay home for a Russell Westbrook-less Oklahoma City Thunder team on Saturday.
After that, the Wolves go to Philadelphia before heading home for the Suns and Bobcats. They go to San Antonio before coming home for the Kings. The 17th and 18th, they have their first back-to-back since the Wizards-Bucks tandem, but it comes in Toronto and then home against the Jazz. Three days later they’ll play in Utah before heading to Oakland, Portland (back-to-back after Warriors) and then to Chicago (weird travel wrinkle). They’ll finish off January with home games against the Pelicans and Grizzlies.