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'No more smiling' as young Timberwolves adjust to seriousness of playoff crunch

From NBA media reports

Youth will not be an excuse for the Minnesota Timberwolves come playoff time. Not if what Tom Thibodeau is seeing from is team these days is any indication. And not if the tone being set by the team’s young stars guides the way when the season reaches its boiling point.

The gravity of their situation becomes more obvious with each and every game, they visit San Antonio tonight (8:30 ET, NBA TV), each one critical for playoff positioning. All-Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins have had to adjust to the seriousness required during a late-season playoff push. And their teammates have taken notice. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune explains:

It’s a time of year when veteran forward Taj Gibson said he has seen the look change in the eyes of both young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins after the Wolves lost consecutive games at Portland and Utah two weeks ago.

“Those weren’t no laid-back kind of games,” Gibson said. “Portland, Utah, they were going hard. They really wanted it. The way both teams celebrated after they beat us, you know they’re in it to make the playoffs. There’s no more smiling, no more buddy-buddy stuff.”

The Wolves lost their next game — at home to Boston — and owned a three-game losing streak for the first time all season. But just when the Wolves were in danger of losing their way in the Western Conference’s competitive playoff race without injured Jimmy Butler, they beat NBA champion Golden State and Washington consecutively.

They did so with Towns dominating both games at times, to the tune of a 31-point, 16-rebound performance one afternoon and a 37-point, 10-rebound game two nights later.

They also did so after Wiggins and Nemanja Bjelica shot their team to victory against the Wizards — going a perfect 8-for-8 combined in the fourth quarter — after the Wolves trailed by 10 points with fewer than 10 minutes left.

“They’re growing,” Thibodeau said. “That’s the best part about them being young. There’s room for a lot of growth the way they’re playing.”

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