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Basketball Reference still gives the Wolves an 18 percent chance of making the playoffs even after Wednesday night's debacle against the Knicks -- previously losers of 7 in a row -- at Target Center. Mathematically, we suppose that number is about right based on remaining schedules, et al.
But this Wolves team has been about incongruent math all season, so let's be real: for practical purposes, the season died last night. It died painfully, with a terrible start, a missed opportunity to reclaim momentum for good in the third quarter and a questionable decision to roll with the bench to start the fourth.
In other words, the season died how it lived. The Wolves gave themselves no margin for error by blowing winnable game after winnable game early in the season and then finished the job with one more particularly crushing defeat.
We will remember this as a team that could take a massive lead on just about anyone and looked dominant when shots were falling. We'll remember all of those losses by fewer than four points. We will note that the Wolves somehow still rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the league, numbers that suggest their record should be 38-22 instead of 30-30. We will remember this as a team, ultimately, where the sum of the parts added up to less than the whole.
So yes, there are winnable games ahead. The Wolves will probably still finish above .500 for the first time in nearly a decade. But even if the math says they could still get into the playoffs, the reality is that a team that can't be trusted to beat the Knicks certainly can't be expected to go on a sustained run to close the year.
Sixty games is a large enough sample size. This team isn't cursed by bad luck. This team is cursed by its own shortcomings.
The Wolves tried. They tried so hard. They did everything just perfectly to turn a 21 point lead with six minutes remaining into a game in which they needed every single one of Kevin Martin's six made free throws in the final 16 seconds. They made an effort to turn a certain win into the kind of loss that would have killed the season for good.
But they couldn't quite do it. They had just enough left in the tank to finish off the Nuggets 132-128 last night, even as they dangled precariously in a position where one missed free throw in the end would have given Denver a real chance to tie.
As such: a win is a win is a win.
More so, it was the team's sixth win in seventh games, it completed a 4-1 road trip and ... we know ,we know, why do we do this, but ... look out: this season isn't over yet.
The Wolves have five of the next six at home, and all six of the games are winnable. If they can put together a 5-1 stretch, which really isn't unreasonable, they would be 35-30 going into a game at Dallas in two weeks.
Golden State, Phoenix and Dallas are all within shouting distance. The Wolves still have to move past Memphis as well, but if Minnesota stays hot and two of those four teams falter, this thing is not over. Not by a long shot.
So check those smoke detector batteries. We're feeling optimistic again.
* Kevin Love, the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week, finished his month of February averaging league-highs in both points (34.0 ppg) and rebounds (14.1 rpg). The last player to average 34+ pts and 14+ rebs in a month was Moses Malone in March 1982.
* Has recorded 30+ points and 10+ rebounds in six straight games, the third longest streak in the last 30 seasons (11 by O'Neal in 2001; 10 by Karl Malone in 1988).
* Love's 33-point, 13-rebound, 9-assist performance on Feb. 25 vs. Phoenix was his fifth straight 30+ pt/10+ reb game w/ 2+ 3FGM, the longest such streak in the NBA in at least 28 seasons.
* Love scored 22 points in the third quarter against Utah on Feb. 22, his highest scoring quarter ever and just shy of the club record for points in a quarter (Chauncey Billups, 24 in 3rd on Feb. 19, 2002); Love's 22-point third period in Utah wrapped up a three-game stretch in which he totaled 55 third-quarter points (15, Feb. 12 vs. Denver; 18, Feb. 19 vs. Indiana; 22, Feb. 22 at Utah).
The saddest number, not included in the stat pack sent out by the Wolves: 5-6. That was their record during Love's amazing month (and that was only after a 4-1 finish to the month, a string they bring into March).
As we mentioned last week, we are only at the cusp of speculation about Kevin Love's future. The latest round comes from Grantland's Bill Simmons, who takes a peek at four possible Love destinations and -- SURPRISE -- concludes that his beloved Celtics just might be a player in the sweepstakes.
Shocking. Arrogant. But not altogether wrong, either, because Simmons knows a lot about hoops even if his green goggles get in the way sometimes.
Simmons is convinced that the time to trade Love is this coming offseason if the Wolves are going to do it. We agree with that. You don't take something like that up to next year's trading deadline. You take the temperature on Love this offseason, and you find out where he really stands. If he makes it clear that he is opting out, you seek out the best deal.
Simmons concludes that four possible trade partners are: the Suns, Bulls, Lakers and Celtics. And he concludes that the Celtics potentially have the most to offer. The problem with all the deals is that they are mostly about future assets and not existing ones. Selling a Wolves fan base on another rebuilding project is going to be tough. Very tough.
That said, here is what he says about the Celtics:
Let’s say the Celtics lose the 2014 lottery and end up with a pick between no. 3 and no. 5. They could send that pick to Minny along with Atlanta’s first-rounder (probably ending up in the 13-to-18 range) and their 2015 Clippers pick for Love. And they could throw in Brandon Bass and Keith Bogans’s immediately waivable deal to make the contracts work. Oh, and if Minnesota were more interested in one or more of those future Brooklyn picks that Boston owns (unprotected in 2016 and 2018, pick swap in 2017), the Celts could discuss that, too. Remember, they have a WAR CHEST of picks: 10 in five years.
STOP CALLING IT MINNY. NOBODY REASONABLE CALLS IT MINNY.
In the end, would it be more painful to make another deal with the Celtics (and risk watching another Kevin win a championship in Boston) or just let Love walk after next season if that's his decision?
Per USA Today, it sounds as though former Minnesota prep standout, ex-Gopher (though he didn't play a game here) and former Iowa State star Royce White is going to sign soon with Sacramento:
The Sacramento Kings recently worked out 22-year-old forward and mental health advocate Royce White and are likely to sign him to a 10-day contract, two people with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because no deal had yet been finalized.
This would be interesting regardless, but the Wolves' next game on their West Coast trip happens to be in Sacramento on Saturday. It's possible, USA Today reports, that the deal won't happen until next week.
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