In third place in the West not that long ago, the Timberwolves tonight at Target Center play a Los Angeles Clippers chasing them for the conference's eighth and final playoff spot.
Both the Clippers and Nuggets trail the Wolves by two games for that last spot.
"I always laugh at that must-win thing," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said at his team's Target Center shootaround this morning. "Fans on your side say you `must win,' and fans on the other side say they must win. Well, someone's going to be wrong. I think the mentality is you must play well. You must play the way you play and don’t try to do anything else. You've got to do it well, control your environment. If you do that, you may control theirs."
Tonight's game is the last in an eight-game stretch where the Wolves played at Portland, Utah, Washington and San Antonio and faced Boston, Golden State, Houston and now the Clippers at home.
They're 2-5 in those first seven games and now a game behind fifth-place San Antonio and a half game behind Utah and New Orleans.
They're also 4-5 since All-Star guard Jimmy Butler went down injured clutching his knee in a Feb. 23 game at Houston and underwent surgery on his partially torn knee meniscus cartilage two days later.
Butler told reporters before Sunday's loss to the Rockets that he's aiming to return before the playoffs start, but doesn't know exactly when.
"With Jimmy, I just want him to concentrate on the rehab, like he has to use that as a goal for himself to come back," Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We have to be ready to battle without him. That’s what this is all about right now. The guys who are out there, we have to get it done. We have more than enough to win with and we just have to find a way to get it done."