The Timberwolves, on Saturday night against Dallas, will try to accomplish something that hasn't been done around here in a long, long time: win a fourth consecutive game.
The Wolves haven't done that in nearly five years. The last four-game win streak came in December 2012, back when Nikola Pekovic's foot was still healthy and Kevin Love was still part of the franchise's future.
Rick Adelman was the coach, David Kahn the general manager.
Things have changed. While a seemingly small accomplishment, it's a bit of testament to where this franchise is, and where it might be going.
"This is the best team we've had since I've been here," Andrew Wiggins said.
Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns were in high school the last time the Wolves won four straight, a stretch that included victories over Cleveland (before LeBron James returned), a 27-win New Orleans team, Denver and Dallas. In a 114-106 overtime victory on Dec. 15, 2012, against Dallas that put the Wolves at 12-9, the starting lineup that included Alexey Shved, Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko, Luke Ridnour and Dante Cunningham. Love missed that game; Ricky Rubio made his return from knee surgery that night, coming off the bench.
After that? The Wolves lost 11 of the next 15.
Which brings us to the present. The Wolves (5-3) are taking steps. After going 13-32 in games decided by nine or fewer points last season, Minnesota is 5-1 in such games this season. Four of the five victories have come in one-possession games; the team had only seven such wins all of last season.
This is a team that is growing. And, perhaps, learning how to deal with a bit of success. Veteran Taj Gibson suggested after a onesided loss in Detroit that the team might have exhaled a bit after a last-second victory in Oklahoma City. But, since then, with Jimmy Butler back in the lineup, the Wolves have won three straight.
The key now is to keep the pedal down.
"There are certain things you have to guard against," Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Human nature is, you exhale. And you can't. Not in this league. You have to bring it every day. That's the best part about the league, the challenge."
There is still a ways to go. The Wolves have won some close games, but in some cases that's happened after the team surrendered leads late. Butler joked Friday the team is doing that to provide drama to the fans.
"I wish we hadn't put ourselves in that situation," Butler said, seriously, about the close wins. "We have the lead, we have to get better building on that lead. But we'll get better as a group, as a team. As long as we won — by one, by 10, by 12 — it goes on the 'W' column."
The victory Wednesday in New Orleans showed the improved depth on the team, especially in the frontcourt. The team's ability to close out close games is also a plus. But, to most of the players, a modest three-game winning streak isn't anything to crow about. Even if it would be, relatively speaking, rather rare news around here.
"If we continue to do what we're doing, strive for success, don't cheat any of the steps getting there, we'll have more than four games in a row," Towns said.
Said Wiggins: "We haven't accomplished anything to be satisfied with. We make our push, hopefully accomplish something great, then we can go there."