The Timberwolves just made it through what appeared to be a tough stretch on their schedule with a 3-1 record.
Out of the All-Star break, the Wolves got wins over Memphis, Cleveland and Golden State, three teams likely headed for the playoffs at the end of the season. Their lone loss was to Philadelphia, a potential title contender.
The 34-29 Wolves have stated for the past several weeks they have intentions on moving up into the top six seeds in the Western Conference and getting out of the play-in field.
Now is the time for them to do damage.
Their next five games come against teams well below .500, starting Friday at Oklahoma City. After that comes two games at home against Portland, another game at home against Oklahoma City and a road game against Orlando. The Wolves could finish this stretch on a seven-game win streak — and could move up in the standings as a result. All they have to do is beat teams they should beat.
"We got to get greedy right now," coach Chris Finch said. "We're going to need as many wins as we can get coming down the stretch. We're going to need as much cushion as we can get."
The Wolves, currently the No. 7 seed, entered Thursday 2 ½ games back of No. 6 Denver and 3 ½ back of No. 5 Dallas. The were 1 ½ games ahead of the No. 8 Clippers.
The Thunder beat Denver on Wednesday night and showed the potential pitfalls of taking a team too lightly and looking ahead on the schedule.
"We said there's going to be a lot of twists and turns in this season as it comes down the stretch, whether it be what happens to us or what happens to other teams," Finch said. "Can't look ahead and can't predict. We're not in that business right now."
One of the issues this young Wolves team has had has been becoming too complacent with its own success. That was a point of emphasis last season after the Wolves would win a game, only to lose multiple games right after it. There have been fewer slip ups in that department this season. Guard D'Angelo Russell credited that to Finch and his staff along with veteran guard Patrick Beverley.
"I continue to give credit to Pat, because he holds our group to that standard," Russell said. "He wouldn't let us slip off, he wouldn't let us not approach the game with the right mentality. From practice today, from our off day yesterday, he's always preaching and giving to the game, so you almost feel like you're disrespecting him when you as an individual don't give it."
Guard Anthony Edwards missed Tuesday's game because of left knee tendinopathy that has bothered him throughout the season. Finch said Edwards went through the walk through portion of a practice that was mostly low intensity on Thursday. He is out for Friday, though. The lighter schedule might provide the Wolves a chance to pile up wins without needing Edwards' services as much as they might during other parts of the season.
Not that the Wolves are looking too far ahead. Finch, for instance, wasn't sure if the Wolves played a pair of back to backs with the Thunder and Portland or if the schedule broke up those match ups. All he knew was Oklahoma City was on tap for Friday.
"We still got teams in front of us," Finch said. "Our goal is to finish in the playoffs, not the play-in. That's been the goal all season. We got to keep pushing."