It’s tough to be in any must-win scenario, but the Minnesota Timberwolves found themselves in just such a high-stakes confrontation. Worse yet, it was against the red-hot Golden State Warriors, the defending NBA Champions, and it was on the road too. And the Timberwolves have struggled to make any headway past the .500 mark this season.
The Minnesota Timberwolves (37-37) embarked on a critical three-game road trip after an emotionally charged victory over the Atlanta Hawks at Target Center extended their own winning streak to two games. It was a huge win for the Timberwolves, as not only did All-Star power forward Karl-Anthony Towns return after an absence of 52 games, but he drained the game-tying and game-winning points from the free throw line to seal the win.
To casually state that this has been a difficult NBA season for the Minnesota Timberwolves would be a gross understatement. The Timberwolves roster has been through a trial-by-fire, both from external as well as internal forces. The team has had to compete without key players, sometimes for months, and has seldom gotten any mention in NBA headlines of that adversity.
No retreat in Timberwolves this season
But the team would press on. Even as former Timberwolves PG D’Angelo Russell was openly critical and berating his new teammate C Rudy Gobert, the team pressed on. The initial hope was for the Timberwolves front office to act in the off-season, and simply let D’Lo test his value in the NBA Free Agency market. After the NBA Trade Deadline, reports confirmed that the Timberwolves did not intend to extend Russell.
The Timberwolves, desperate to get Gobert more involved in the offense, traded D’Angelo Russell at the trade deadline for three second-round NBA Draft picks, veteran PG Mike Conley, and young SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Conley has been a positive locker-room presence for the team, and he was quite effective in his first game playing alongside Karl-Anthony Towns.
But this would be an entirely different and more difficult challenge for the Timberwolves. The Golden State Warriors were riding the crest of a three-game winning streak, were at home where they were 30-7, and the Minnesota Timberwolves were just 16-20 on the road this season. Making matters worse, the Warriors would get an emotional boost from the return to action of veteran shooting guard Gary Payton II.