With 18 games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season the Minnesota Timberwolves have all but played themselves out of playoff contention thanks to a horrible road record.
The disappointment of the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ season can be attributed to plenty of different factors.
Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau certainly played their part in derailing this season, for starters, but the biggest reason for Wolves’ regression this season has been their failure to win on the road.
The Timberwolves are just 9-24 away from the Target Center this season compared to 20-10 at home. That road record is the third-worst in the Western Conference and the sixth-worst in the entire NBA.
Last season, Minnesota’s road record was 17-24 — far from amazing, but was the eighth-best mark in the Western Conference. You may recall that the Wolves also finished with the eighth-best overall record in the West.
But the road woes began early this season for the Wolves.
Minnesota began the month of November on a five-game West Coast road trip. They lost all five games, including a 30-point blowout in Portland.
The Wolves didn’t win for the first time on the road until Nov. 23 in Brooklyn after losing their first eight road games of the season. Then, they followed that up with a similar trip to the West Coast, this time losing four in a row to conferences foes in the month of December.
In fact, the Wolves went an astounding 0-12 on the road against Western Conference teams until they finally beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 23.
Overall, Minnesota is just 4-16 on the road against conference opponents during the 2018-19 campaign.
Unsurprisingly, a coaching change in the middle of the season hasn’t turned things around for the road wary Wolves, either. Minnesota is just 4-9 on the road with Ryan Saunders as head coach, including a pair of three-game road losing streaks under Saunders, one of which is still ongoing.
If we want to drill down even further, the main reason for the road struggles has been the defense. At home, the Wolves allow 108.7 points per game. On the road, that number balloons to 116.5 points per game.
The Wolves also can’t seem to beat bad teams on the road. They are currently just 6-10 against non-playoff teams on the road. That includes bad road losses to Dallas, Memphis, Phoenix and the recent overtime debacle in Atlanta.
If the Wolves don’t make the playoffs but want to salvage their season at all and give the fans some hope for next season, they will have to show they can win on the road down the stretch. It will be an admittedly tall task, as eight of their last 19 games are on the road. Five of those eight are against current playoff teams, including two games in Denver.
The return of Robert Covington to the lineup could be what the Wolves need to get over their struggles on the road. Covington, of course, has missed the last 27 games with an ankle injury.
While in the lineup, Covington did seem to bolster the team on the road. While it’s a small sample size, Minnesota is 5-5 on the road this year with Covington in the lineup and just 4-19 without him since he joined the team in November.
Covington has not seen the court since New Year’s Eve and when he does return, he alone won’t be enough to save the Timberwolves’ season. But if he can remind this team how to play defense, they could get some momentum going into the offseason.
Whatever happens from here on out will be too little, too late for a playoff push. The Wolves have played themselves out of the race and now sit in 11th in the West and six full games out of the No. 8 spot.
When the NBA playoffs finally come around, Wolves fans can look at the team’s performance on the road as one of the main reasons their team is nowhere to be found in the postseason.