Timberwolves snap 14-year playoff drought

Many people might not be able to recall who was in the starting lineup when the Timberwolves last played in mid-April, but it is quite different now. The team featured Minnesota icon Kevin Garnett as the center piece, surrounded by star players like Sam Cassell, and Latrell Sprewell, who muscled a path all the way to the Western Conference Finals and lost to Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers in 6 games during the 03-04 season. A season later the calamity of age struck Minnesota’s roster hard and they regressed to a losing record and not even making the playoffs. That was the beginning of the end for the Wolves as they saw 13 straight losing records after. After 7 straight playoff appearances the Timberwolves 14-year playoff drought began.

The more things change the more they stay the same, and the Timberwolves found themselves with another big three in Minnesota. Karl Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins, both selected in back to back drafts 1 overall, and a blockbuster trade via Chicago to acquire all-star forward Jimmy Butler. The new look T-Wolves, with their reinvigorated roster at one time had the third seed in a stacked Western Conference well in sight.

It’s not to say that the team didn’t have their fair share of struggles. The strong start we saw out of the Timberwolves campaign was effectively derailed by a terrible defensive efficiency rating of 25, injuries to key players such as Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague, and rumors swirling about Andrew Wiggin being unhappy with his third wheel position.

But they came through and fought to the bitter end. Jimmy Butler returned just in time for the Timberwolves most important game of the year. The last regular season game was a winner take all and the loser is out of the playoff situation. It was fight or die and came down to two key free throws by Andrew Wiggins and a game saving steal by Taj Gibson that sealed the Nuggets season.

“No matter what seed we were going to be in the playoffs. We wanted to compete for a championship,”

said Jimmy Butler, finishing with 31 points, after the game in an interview with Nick Friedell, ESPN staff writer. But this win and playoff appearance was a different kind of special to Karl Anthony Towns. Towns made a promise to late Timberwolves Head Coach Flip Saunders who died in October of 2015, that he would bring the team to the playoffs.

“It’s a lot of emotions,” Towns said in the same interview with Friedell, “Minneapolis deserves it, the state deserves it. I’m glad we were able to bring it back.”

The Timberwolves may have drawn the short straw as they must face the NBA’s best team, the 1 seed Houston Rockets in their first series. The Rockets are one of the only teams in the past 20 years to accrue a 65-win season. But you never know what can happen in the playoffs and Wolves fans are happy that their team is back in the postseason.