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Wolves Playoff Watch Viewing Guide | March 12, 2018

by Julian Andrews
Web Editorial Associate Follow

There are only four NBA games tonight, but three of them impact the Wolves’ playoff hunt.

Minnesota has the night off before facing the Wizards tomorrow in Washington. Here’s who Wolves fans should be rooting for tonight:

Spurs at Rockets, 7:00 p.m., ESPN

The Spurs, sitting in seventh place in the West with a record of 37-29 (one game behind the Wolves), are in legitimate danger of seeing their 20-season postseason streak come to an end.

It seems like the Spurs always find a way to figure things out, but without the stabilizing force that is Kawhi Leonard, the team has struggled to string wins together.

The Rockets, meanwhile, hold the best record in the league and have been destroying teams with an incredibly efficient offense built around James Harden’s MVP-caliber play and the consistency of Chris Paul and Clint Capela.

Houston also shoots 41.7 threes per game and hits them at a 37-percent clip. Scary stuff for the rest of the league.

The Rockets are the favorite in this one, and that’s good news for Minnesota fans. As odd as it is to see the Spurs struggling in March, every San Antonio loss increases the Wolves’ chances of making the playoffs.

Kings at Thunder, 7:00 p.m., League Pass

The Thunder are another team that the Wolves would love to see lose.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem very likely tonight.

The Thunder are in a strange spot. Despite their star-studded roster, they have failed to distinguish themselves as an elite team. Lately, OKC has beaten teams they are expected to beat (Suns, Magic, Mavericks, Grizzlies), but struggled against better squads (Cavs, Warriors, Rockets, Blazers).

Since the loss of Andre Roberson in January, the Thunder have gone from being one of the best defenses in the league to one of the worst.

Despite this, the Thunder are heavily favored to beat the Kings tonight. While Sacramento has some promising young players, they simply don’t have the talent to match up with the Thunder. If there is any hope for Wolves fans it probably rests on the performances of rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox and third-year center Willie Cauley-Stein. Cauley-Stein in particular might be in line for a big game if OKC center Steven Adams, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, is unable to suit up for the Thunder.

With a win, the Thunder would move past Minnesota and take over the fifth spot in the West. The teams currently have the exact same record (39-29), but the Wolves hold the 3-1 season series tiebreaker.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony are expected to make the playoffs—failure to do so would be a huge blow to the team. Minnesota fans should be rooting for the Kings to find a way to play spoiler.

Heat at Blazers, 9:30 p.m., ESPN

The Blazers now hold the longest active winning streak in the NBA at nine games. Their last win was an impressive 125-108 defeat of the Warriors on Friday. They sit at third in the West, two games ahead of the Wolves.

Damian Lillard was just named the Western Conference Player of the Week, averaging 34.7 points in that span. He leads the Blazers into a matchup against a Heat squad missing several key contributors.

Dwyane Wade (hamstring) and Hassan Whiteside (hip) will miss the game against the Blazers. The absence of Whiteside especially could be a problem for the Heat. Portland is one of the better rebounding teams in the league, and Miami is one of the worst. Promising rookie center Bam Adebayo will need to have a strong game if the Heat want a chance to win.

Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic will be tasked with locking up Portland’s dynamic backcourt duo of Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Wolves fans should be sending them positive energy.