Tom Gugliotta averaged 20.1 ppg but played only 41 games. (Getty Images)
Lesson 1: Winning is a lot more fun than losing. After opening the season 11-14, Minnesota won 14 of its next 16 en route to a record of 45-37, five games better than the previous year's mark. On Dec. 23, Minnesota won 112-103 at Seattle to end a streak of 26 straight losses to the Sonics, fueled by Stephon Marbury's team-record eight three-pointers and 35 points. One week later, Minnesota beat the Chicago Bulls for the first time in their history, ending a 16-game losing streak with a 99-95 win. From Jan. 9-21, they won seven straight games, then a franchise record.
Lesson 2: Every good team has to overcome injuries. Guard Chris Carr and leading scorer Tom Gugliotta had their seasons cut short because of injury. Carr never completely recovered from a Jan. 29 ankle injury, and Gugliotta saw his season cut in half after surgery on his right ankle. The loss of Gugliotta, who averaged 20.1 ppg and 8.7 rpg, sent Minnesota into an 8-15 tailspin, but in late March, the team began to reverse that trend, and finished with 12 wins in their final 16 games to earn the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Lesson 3: Every good team needs veteran leadership. Minnesota found it in the names of Sam Mitchell, Terry Porter and Anthony Peeler, each of whom stepped up in Gugliotta's absence. Mitchell had his best season in seven years, scoring 12.3 ppg. Porter averaged 9.5 ppg, his best scoring average since the 1993-94 season, and Peeler had his career resurrected in February, when he was acquired from Vancouver for Doug West. Peeler scored 13.0 ppg in 30 games with the Timberwolves.
Stephon Marbury ranked fourth in the NBA in assists during his second season.
Doug Pensinger, Getty Images
Lesson 5: There's no room for fear. After one of the most successful regular seasons in their history, the Timberwolves advanced to the playoffs against a Seattle team that was 32-4 against Minnesota all-time. Seattle won big in Game 1, 108-83, but the young Wolves stayed poised. Two days later, they posted a 98-93 shocker at Seattle, then returned to the Target Center for a 98-90 win. The wins were the first postseason victories in the history of the franchise, and they put the Timberwolves one win from the Conference Semifinals.
Lesson 6: There's always more to learn. Despite Minnesota's guile and determination, Seattle came back to win the series in five games. Minnesota led 47-44 at halftime of the deciding game, but a more experienced Seattle team relied on its past experience to win 97-84, ending one of the best seasons in the history of the franchise.