NBA Play-In Game 3: Timberwolves must weather some rolling Thunder

Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in three of their four matchups in the 2022-23 NBA season. But you can, for the most part, toss the regular season record out the window for this one. It’s Game 3 of the NBA Play-In Tournament, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are rolling right now.

Since the NBA Trade Deadline, we know that the Minnesota Timberwolves have played to a 12-12 record, and their record in the NBA Play-In Tournament is 0-1. Likewise, the Oklahoma City Thunder have played to a 14-14 record since the NBA Trade Deadline. The difference is that their record in the NBA Play-In Tournament is 1-0.

Now, the Minnesota Timberwolves must figure out how to do something that eluded the New Orleans Pelicans. The Wolves must weather some rolling Thunder this Friday at Target Center and emerge with a win.

Must Read. Minnesota Timberwolves playoff schedule 2023: Every Timberwolves playoff game (Updated). light

Thunder hot, but still struggle on the road

Before we paint the Thunder as a team that cannot be beaten, let’s point out the fact that they are a young roster who struggled on the road this season, winning just 16 of 41 games. The Timberwolves held a slight home advantage this year, winning 22 of 41 games at Target Center. The Thunder are traveling to face the Minnesota Timberwolves after winning their Tuesday night game on the road against the New Orleans Pelicans.

For a good recap of Game 2 of the NBA Play-In Tournament for the NBA Western Conference, check out the post-game write-up here. If you want the latest odds on the upcoming Thunder vs Timberwolves contest, you can check out the odds here.

The Timberwolves lost a hard-fought contest in Los Angeles but will return home for one more chance to earn a berth in the NBA Playoffs. To help matters, the team will welcome back pugilist center Rudy Gobert, who sat out a one-game suspension imposed by the team for his part in a bench fight with teammate forward Kyle Anderson.

The Timberwolves are not out of it yet

The Minnesota Timberwolves put up a valiant effort against a Los Angeles Lakers roster that was fully healthy and fully stocked. Even so, the Timberwolves came out fired up and rode that early momentum to remain in the lead all the way through three quarters. But the Timberwolves roster was stuck with tight rotations that required more than 40 minutes from each of the team’s five starters.

That not only led to the Timberwolves starting five tiring towards the end, but that fatigue (and an unexplained bias from NBA officiating) led to the Timberwolves sending the Lakers to the free-throw line far more often in the second half.

Why I am a bigger believer in the Minnesota Timberwolves right now. light. Hot

Because that game ended up in a tie that went into overtime, just one less foul called on the Timberwolves or one more foul called on the Lakers may have changed the outcome of that game. The return of center Rudy Gobert will help tremendously, as he will assume the lion’s share of minutes at center, allowing the Timberwolves to return Karl-Anthony Towns to the power forward position, and Taurean Prince to his role as a sparkplug off the Timberwolves bench.