Although the Timberwolves season came to an early end, the team as a whole has taken a step in the right direction and appears to have a bright future.
Timberwolves fans across the nation woke up with a sour taste in their mouths on Thursday morning, and understandably so.
On Wednesday night, they watched their team lose their first-round series by a 4-1 margin at the hands of James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
Regardless of the result, it was a magical season for the Wolves and fans. Sure, it would have been nice to clinch the No. 3 seed that they had been in position to grab practically all season long and not run into the team with the best record in the league in the first round. However, gaining playoff experience helps towards the team’s future, and especially playing against a team of the Rockets caliber.
For the most part, the Wolves put together a competitive series. Knowing that, it would be fair to attempt to take away the good from the series rather than the bad.
The Wolves defense was sharp, for the most part, and the rotations were quick more times than not. They also closed out on shooters fairly well and completely shut down Chris Paul and Harden for some time in Games 3 and 5.
Now, I know what some of you may be thinking: “What about the 50-point third quarter in Game 4?”
Fair point. There’s no excuse to allow 50 points in a single quarter. But keep in mind there were some shots made where you just needed to tip your cap to the Rockets. Not much more can be done without fouling when hands are in the shooters face and he makes it. That’s great defense and an even better shot.
It’s very clear that the defense was not perfect in the series. There were too many times where the defense would collapse and leave Trevor Ariza or P.J. Tucker wide-open for a corner three. Fighting around screens also seemed to be an issue more times than not. This, too, allowed Harden or whomever enough space to put up a comfortable shot.
Missed opportunities were a killer for the Wolves as well. There were a few different times where the Rockets were on a cold streak and the Wolves couldn’t make them pay.
The one time they did was in Game 3, which they won. It seemed as if once they had a 10-point lead they could not extend it. Because of that, the Rockets would hit a few quick shots to close the gap or take the lead. This is something the Wolves need to hone in on in the future. Letting leads slip away is a killer, as they quickly discovered.
KAT grew up a lot this series. After all, he really had no choice but to do just that while battling Clint Capela for five games.
Wiggins averaged 15.8 points per game, which was tied with Butler for the team high. It was also nice to see him put together some big boy plays such as this one.
Although neither of their performances were over-the-top spectacular, KAT and Wiggins gained experience in the playoffs against the team with the leagues best record.
With that being said, they should now know what it takes to beat the best come postseason time. They also have an idea of how to beat the best after seeing them for five consecutive games and nine times on the season. This theory applies to the whole team as well, assuming the core stays together.
Derrick Rose had himself a spectacular series, providing an instant spark off of the bench in each game. Although he had some mishaps on both sides of the ball here and there, it’s good to know that he wants to stay in Minnesota and who knows, he could possibly be able to play at this level for a full season.
For the most part, Rose was superb. Whether he was hitting shots or leading the break, his experience and confidence seemed to have been showing.
From a team perspective, the Wolves held their own considering every aspect of the series. It would be very easy to take all of the bad out of the series and put every coach and player on the hot seat. When you consider every aspect of the series there’s no need to do that.
The Wolves competed in each game for at least the majority of the contest and even snagged a win in Game 3. Each player gained experience and became better by playing one of the best teams in the league. Not to mention that losses usually bring out the best in players.
Take Michael Jordan, for instance. If it weren’t for the “Bad Boy” Pistons, there is a slight chance Jordan does not reach his level of greatness. They beat the Bulls time after time and forced Jordan to put in even more work each offseason until he finally took them down.
Overall, the Wolves were 1-8 against the Rockets this year, and it’s their time to do the same. Windows for winning are not very large in the NBA. The Wolves have a roster that could grow to become capable of winning an NBA title. But they need to start now.
As long as the team can stay healthy next season and carry with them the experience of this series, they should have a much better seeding and chance to make a run in the playoffs next season.
Taking all the good out of the series and picturing how this helps the team down the road may help the pain go away a little sooner. It was one heck of a ride this season, but the best has yet to come.