On the eve of their first playoff game in 14 years, the Timberwolves want you to know something.
They aren’t just happy to be back in the playoffs. They are ready to make some noise and couldn’t care less they are the eight seed and the Rockets are the one seed. Experts don’t expect the Wolves to win?
“Don’t let up. People aren’t expecting us to win, but we are,” Wolves wing Andrew Wiggins said after Saturday’s practice. “That’s what we’re here for.”
Wiggins is one of the players who doesn’t have playoff experience on the team. While playoff experience is important, the Wolves seem confident about what they need to do to pull of what many would consider an upset.
“This is why everybody’s here, not just (the players who have made it before), we can’t do it alone,” Butler said. “Even the guys who haven’t made the playoffs before, they know what’s at stake. They know how hard they have to play, how locked in, how they have to know everybody’s tendencies. . . This is playoff basketball.”
Butler headlined a group this offseason with plenty of playoff experience. Butler has been to the playoffs five times. Jeff Teague? Eight appearances. Taj Gibson? Seven. Jamal Crawford? Seven.
This was by design for coach Tom Thibodeau in his efforts to change the culture in Minnesota.
“When you’re trying to erase 14 years of losing, you have to bring in people who have won before,” Thibodeau said.
A Different Style Of Ball
Playoff basketball is a different style of ball. It’s more physical, more strategic and more intense.
Coaches and players can study more, which is probably the biggest difference for young players who haven’t been part of a seven-game series before.
“College is the NCAA tournament is one and done. It’s a 40-minute game,” Thibodeau said. “In the pros it’s a series, so you’re playing the same team over and over. They’re going to know everything you’re doing, you’re going to know everything they’re doing. And that’s why the intensity goes to the level that it does. It’s imposing your will. It’s fighiting.”
Karl-Anthony Towns, who led the NBA in double-doubles and will be mentioned as an All-NBA team candidate, is treating it like any other game.
“Never get too high, never get too low,” Towns said. “ . . . They do a lot of different things and they change schemes all the time . . . It’s about playing our best.”
- Rockets forward Ryan Anderson (ankle) is likely to miss the game. Taj Gibson (neck) is probable.
- This marks a homecoming of sorts for Butler. Butler was born in Houston and grew up in Tomball, Texas, which is about 33 miles from Houston: “It’s special to know that I’m from around this area and people still follow my career. Deep down, I’m still a kid from Tomball. I just live in a different city now.”
- Tipoff between the two teams is set for 8 p.m. CT on Fox Sports North, 830 WCCO and TNT.