DETROIT — For the last several weeks, the Timberwolves have eschewed maximizing their lottery odds in the name of seeing what they have going into next year.
The Wolves wanted to win as much as possible, and they've sacrificed about 12.5% in odds of retaining a top three pick or shipping it to Golden State in order to go 6-3 over their last nine games.
Their last two wins came against fellow bottom feeders Orlando and Detroit, who were only too happy to accept the lopsided losses and let the Wolves pass them. The Wolves are on another wavelength.
They are now home for the last three games, all against teams who will be participating in the postseason. Beating Orlando and Detroit was nice. But coming with a few wins in three games against Dallas, Denver and Boston would send the Wolves out on a high.
"We've got a chance now to kind of measure ourselves," coach Chris Finch said. "So we're looking forward to that."
The Wolves are as close to healthy as they've been all season, which is one reason they've been able to rattle off wins of late. They will be without Jarrett Culver (ankle) and likely without Malik Beasley (hamstring), but have Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards playing at high levels. This was one of the goals Finch cited for the remaining weeks, to establish chemistry between the three of them, who had barely played together the first half of the year.
Russell said they're still getting to know each other in a basketball sense, but the fit is good.
"It's so complementary," Russell said. "All three of our games. Kat, I never played with a player with his dynamic ability to be inside out, outside in, push the break, pass. He just, [Sunday] he threw the ball under the guy's legs. That's something I would think about doing. For him to be that big and surprise me like that — I missed the layup, it caught me off guard.
"I can't imagine what it would be like to get some time under our belt."
By that, Russell means an entire offseason, not just a few dozen games at the end of the season. Russell, who has had double-digit assists in three of his last five games, said he and Edwards can co-exist easily because their games are different.
"Getting in the lane, facilitating and things of that sort. That's not my game. I'm not really a get-in-the-lane type of guy and put the pressure on the rim and he is," Russell said. "When you have Kat doing it as well, it puts pressure on officials and kind of makes my job easier as the point guard to just, guys are in the right spot and get them the ball while they're there."
The last few games Russell didn't have that hard a time finding his scorers. That will be more difficult against teams fielding more competitive rosters.
"We got a really good test to end the season with three teams coming in that have a lot to play for …" Finch said. "Kind of measure us as we head out into the offseason. I'm confident that guys are going to go into the offseason with a bounce in their step, feeling pretty good about what they have around them."
The Wolves are feeling good about themselves. The next few days could tell if they feel that way for the summer.
"I feel like we're a high level, intense team that needs to show that we're not just a team that's at the bottom of the Western Conference," center Naz Reid said. "We're a team that can play together the right way, do the right things and show that we belong either middle or top of the Western Conference."