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Ricky Rubio, left, got his backcourt mate, Kevin Martin, back on Saturday night, and the veteran immediately produced, scoring 26 points, including 19 in the first quarter as the Wolves beat Sacramento on the road.

Rich Pedroncelli • Associated Press,

Rand: A crucial week for local teams

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND
  • Star Tribune
  • March 3, 2014 - 6:45 AM

Four weekend sports thoughts while frantically checking and confirming that the average temperatures in March really are supposed to be much better than this:

1 Before the Wolves embarked on their recent five-game road trip, I asked guard J.J. Barea if there was any chance the team could get on a late-season hot streak and make at least a spirited run at a playoff berth. “There’s always that possibility,” Barea said at the time. “It’s going to be tough right now. We have a couple of guys hurt, and we’re not in that good rhythm yet. … This road trip is going to be big.”

Barea was of the mind that if the Wolves could win four of five games on the trip, they might have a chance to sustain some real momentum. Four games into the trip, Minnesota is 3-1. Two of those injured players — Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin — returned in a victory against Sacramento on Saturday and contributed immediately.

The chance to hit Barea’s benchmark comes Monday at Denver; after that, the Wolves have six consecutive winnable games, with five of them at Target Center. Eighth-seeded Phoenix, meanwhile, has a batch of tough games coming up. It’s still a long shot, but ESPN.com puts the Wolves’ playoff odds at better than 30 percent right now, which is much better than at the start of the road trip.

 

2 There might be a temptation to stick a much-needed ‘W’ in the Gophers column before they play their regular-season finale next Sunday against Penn State at Williams Arena, but that would be a mistake.

Sure, the Lions are languishing near the bottom of the conference, but there are no sure things in the Big Ten this season — and Penn State is 5-5 since starting the league year 0-6. Included in that span are road wins at Indiana and Ohio State. Minnesota desperately needs to win that finale, but the Gophers will also have to earn it.

 

3 We should be much less worried about the Wild. This late in the year, with Minnesota’s ability to squeeze out points like it did against Vancouver on Friday, its current solid standing will hold.

 

4 When reading about Adam Muema — the former San Diego State running back who left the NFL scouting combine for religious reasons and then spent three days at an airport before being found recently — it’s hard not to have flashbacks to former Vikings first-round draft pick Dimitrius Underwood.

It goes without saying that both men have issues, most notably a crisis when trying to reconcile their faith in the context of a violent game that has given them so much.

© 2014 Star Tribune