Breaking up the NBA season into 10-game blocks is pretty arbitrary… but it’s also pretty fun.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have an exciting few weeks ahead of them, including a stop at Oracle Arena to take on the Warriors and a highly-anticipated (at least by me) rematch against the Spurs in Minnesota.
But before we look ahead to the next 10 games, let’s take one more look at the first 10.
After 10 games, the Minnesota Timberwolves are sitting pretty at 7-3 on the year. Fans of symmetry will appreciate that at this point during the 2016-17 season, the Wolves were 3-7. If we go back a couple more years, seven wins comprised just under half of the Wolves’ total wins on the entire season.
It feels weird to see the Wolves near the top of the Western Conference standings, but it’s a feeling I could definitely get used to.
Ten games is still a small sample size, but it’s worth noting that we haven’t kicked off a season quite like this in a long time. In fact, in terms of wins and losses, this is the Timberwolves’ best start since the 2001-02 season.
Maybe the close games are just aging me quickly, but it feels like more than a few weeks have passed since opening night. Even though the Wolves were unable to pull out a win against the Spurs on October 18th, there were some early signs that this year’s team meant business.
Andrew Wiggins dropped 26 points and pulled in six rebounds. Karl-Anthony Towns locked in his first double-double of the year. Jimmy Butler added a quiet 12 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Notably, that game remains the Timberwolves’ only loss with Jimmy Butler on the court.
The Wolves followed up their opening loss with a pair of wins against the Jazz and the Thunder, both of which were playoff teams last year. Andrew Wiggins continued to dominate on the offensive end, and Jimmy Butler showed off his defensive prowess. Jamal Crawford reminded NBA fans that he’s 37-years-young with two clutch 3-pointers against the Jazz to bring the Wolves to 1-1. Then, Andrew Wiggins hit a buzzer-beater (and gave me a heart attack) to silence the crowd in Oklahoma City and bring the record up to 2-1.
The following couple of games were just plain ugly. The Pacers and the Pistons walked all over the Wolves, blowing themout by a combined total of 44 points. Not that we should look back on those losses with pride, but there are a few mitigating factors that should ease our minds a bit (or at least make the nightmares go away).
First off, both of these teams have proven themselves to be more competitive so far than most of us thought they would be. After 10 games, the Pacers are 5-5 and boast wins over the Spurs and the Cavs. The Pistons are second in the Eastern Conference after winning five of their last six games, including an impressive win against Golden State. Secondly, Jimmy Butler did not play in either of those two games. And thirdly, the Timberwolves have bounced back with five wins in a row — so far.
Hopefully, we’ll have bigger achievements to celebrate as the season goes on, but considering the past few seasons, a five-game win streak is nothing to scoff at. The revamped lineup is starting to gel, the ‘Big 3’ are working together, and the bench is coming into its own.
Now let’s look ahead to the next 10 games on the schedule.
The Next 10 Games
What’s up next for the 7-3 Minnesota Timberwolves? Well, the biggest challenge in the next 10-game stretch comes right at the beginning.
If the Timberwolves are going to keep the win streak alive, they’re going to have to do it against the league’s best. After trading games with the Warriors in China during the preseason, the Timberwolves hope to tip the scales in the regular season on November 8.
After a couple of early stumbles against the Grizzlies and the Pistons, the Warriors have returned to form. In their past four games, the Warriors have shrugged off early overreactions and are looking like the dominant force that they’ve been for the past few years. The Warriors are going to be the odds-on favorites against the Wolves on Wednesday night. A Timberwolves’ win is not entirely out of the question, but a much safer bet would be that I’ll be yelling at my TV all game long.
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After squaring off with the Warriors at Oracle Arena, the Timberwolves round out a three-game road trip with games against the Suns and the Jazz. The first of these matchups should be the easier of the two. As long the Wolves can manage to hold water on defense, I expect them to pull out a fairly easy win in a high-scoring shootout against the Suns. The Wolves have beaten the Jazz once already, but going to battle against one of the NBA’s strongest defensive teams at home is going to be a difficult test on the tail-end of a three-game road stint.
The Wolves return to the Target Center on November 15 to take on the Spurs for the second time this year. After the Warriors, the Spurs present the second-biggest challenge of the next 10 games for the Wolves, and after watching various pieces of the puzzle come together for the Wolves over the course of the first 10 games, this rematch looks like it will be a lot of fun. I expect this one to come down to the wire, and I know it wouldn’t help the Wolves’ chances, but I’m hoping that Kawhi Leonard gets healthy in time to go toe-to-toe with Jimmy Butler.
The Wolves close out this 10-game stretch with six very winnable games against the Mavericks, the Pistons, the Hornets, the Magic, the Heat, and the Suns. They’ve already beaten the Mavs, the Hornets, and the Heat, and there’s no reason that the Wolves shouldn’t beat them again. And hopefully, by this time the Wolves also will have beaten the Suns in Phoenix. For now, I’m chalking those four up as ‘should-win’ contests.
The Magic and the Pistons present a few more unknowns, as both of these teams are out-performing preseason expectations. If the Wolves are firing on a cylinders, they should be able to wear down the Magic.
The Pistons are likely to give Tom Thibodeau’s squad more trouble. We saw what happened in Detroit on October 25th, so we know that this game won’t be an easy win. But with the progress the Wolves have made on defense, I expect them to fare better at home on November 19. (Also, Jimmy Butler is going to be on the court this time around, and he’s an okay player, I guess.)
If I were a pragmatic and objective NBA fan, I would say that the Minnesota Timberwolves are on track to win six or seven of their next 10. But as an overzealous Wolves fan, I’m predicting that the Wolves will go 8-2, with the two losses likely coming against Golden State and San Antonio, to bring their overall record to 15-5.