Web Editorial Associate
Here we go folks.
We talk about games as “must-wins” quite a bit late in the season. Perhaps we overuse the phrase, but tonight truly fits that description. A Wolves win puts them in the playoffs, a loss keeps them out.
However, if the Wolves earn a postseason spot tonight, their seeding is far from certain. Depending on the results of the rest of the night’s games, the Wolves could finish in sixth, seventh, or eighth place, and could end up facing the Rockets, Warriors, Blazers or Jazz in the first round.
Here’s how those scenarios play out, obviously they all assume a Minnesota win over Denver:
-No. 8 seed: Pelicans beat Spurs, Thunder defeat Grizzlies, Blazers/Jazz result doesn’t matter. Wolves would face the Rockets in the first round.
-No. 7 seed: Pelicans defeat Spurs, Grizzlies defeat Thunder OR Spurs defeat Pelicans, Thunder defeat Grizzlies. Blazers/Jazz matchup doesn’t matter. Wolves face Warriors in the first round.
-No. 6 seed: Spurs defeat Pelicans, Grizzlies defeat Thunder. Wolves face winner of Blazers/Jazz.
That’s refreshingly straightforward after weeks of playoff scenarios that practically require an advanced degree in statistics to parse out. The scenarios above are the whole picture in a nutshell, but let’s go game by game.
For the last time this season, Wolves fans, here’s your cheering guide:
Spurs at Pelicans, 7 p.m., League Pass
The Spurs hold the tiebreaker over the Wolves, so it’s better for Minnesota’s playoff standing if the Spurs win straight up and knock New Orleans into a tie with the Wolves.
If the Spurs win, the Wolves have no chance of falling to the No. 8 seed and could finish as high as sixth. If they lose, Minnesota could still finish in seventh, but it would require a Memphis upset over the Thunder to avoid the No. 8 seed.
We’ve been rooting for the Spurs in quite a few games lately, which feels odd to say the least, but you got to do what you got to do. Let’s hope San Antonio can find a way to slow down Anthony Davis, and Manu Ginobili holds onto the throwback magic he captured against the Kings.
Grizzlies at Thunder, 7 p.m., League Pass
You’ve got to give the Grizzlies credit. They play with a lot of hustle and try to win every night despite being depleted by injuries. When Mike Conely returns next season, and the team adds what is sure to be a high draft pick, the franchise may actually be in pretty good shape.
But they still have one more game to play in a season that hasn’t gone as they hoped.
The Wolves would love for the Grizzlies to beat the Thunder. If Memphis does get the win, it would guarantee the Wolves at least the No. 7 seed. The Wolves’ only path to the No. 6 seed also requires a Thunder loss.
It may seem unlikely—the Thunder will be fighting hard to keep their playoff position—but the Grizzlies have given playoff teams trouble before. Wolves fans should be checking the score of this one during Wolves timeouts.
Utah at Portland, 9:30 p.m., ESPN
While this game doesn’t affect the Wolves’ seeding, it may dictate their first-round opponent.
The winner of this game will earn the West’s No. 3 seed, and the loser could fall to fifth. If Minnesota wins and gets losses from both the Pelicans and Thunder tonight, they’d play the winner of this game in the West’s 3-6 matchup.
Wolves fans, you can do your own analysis of who you’d rather face. Both these teams have given Minnesota some trouble this season. However, the Jazz are very hot, and have won their last two matchups against the Wolves. The Blazers have been slipping, and don’t look as invincible as they did earlier this year. I’d personally rather play Portland.
This is the NBA’s last game of the regular season, with a 9:30 p.m. national television tipoff, so Wolves fans will need to stay up late to catch the result. Ideally we’d be watching to find out our playoff opponent.