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Wolves Playoff Watch Viewing Guide | March 9, 2018

by Julian Andrews
Web Editorial Associate Follow

The Wolves dropped a disappointing game to the Celtics last night, but the show must go on. Despite the loss, the Wolves remain in the thick of the West, sitting in sixth place in the conference.

It’s a big night for the NBA, with 10 games on the schedule, including several that have the potential to impact Minnesota’s playoff hunt.

Jazz at Grizzlies, 7:00 p.m., League Pass

Can somebody please beat the Jazz?

With Rudy Gobert fully healthy, Utah has been practically unstoppable. Since January 24, the Jazz have only lost two games (against the Blazers and Rockets) and are undefeated on the road.

The Jazz have the fourth-best defensive rating in the league per Basketball Reference, allowing barely 100 points per game. Quite an achievement in the era of the three-point shot.

The Grizzlies almost did the Wolves a favor earlier in the week, taking the Spurs down to the wire in San Antonio, but ended up losing by two. If you’re looking for hope (as many Memphis fans are), rookie Dillon Brooks has looked solid since the All-Star break starting at small forward and has scored 29 and 21 points in the Grizzlies’ last two games, respectively.

Fun fact: Both the Jazz and the Grizzlies have bears for mascots, and Jazz Bear is a crazy dude. Look up the video of him climbing a ladder on stilts or bombing down the arena stairs on a sled. He’s an icon. With that, I hope his team loses.

Wizards at Pelicans, 7:00 p.m., NBATV

The Pelicans’ 10-game winning streak is in danger of coming to an end when they take on the Wizards without superstar Anthony Davis. Davis sprained his ankle in a win against Sacramento on Wednesday night, and it will be up to the rest of the team to continue the streak.

Nikola Mirotic, a trade deadline addition for New Orleans, is averaging 16.4 points and 2.7 threes in a little over 27 minutes per game in his last 10. Mirotic will likely move into the starting lineup against the Wizards, and the Pelicans will have to adjust their style of play significantly to remain effective without Davis.

Wolves fans should be hoping the Pelicans can’t get it figured out tonight. New Orleans sits in fourth place in the West, and with the Spurs struggling as well, a Pelicans loss would open up the top of the conference for the Wolves to move up.

The Wizards have lost a few close games to quality opponents lately, but still have a ton of talent. It’s starting to become clearer why Brad Beal drew so many Ray Allen comparisons when he was drafted, and Kelly Oubre Jr. has become a legit two-way threat.

Let’s hope the Wizards can work some magic on the Pelicans tonight.

Lakers at Nuggets, 8:00 p.m., League Pass

The Lakers are on the outside looking in on the Western Conference playoff race, but that hasn’t stopped them from putting together a ton of quality wins over the last few weeks. Brandon Ingram is definitely going to be a productive NBA player, and Isaiah Thomas, while he hasn’t reached the level he was at in Boston, has been solid off the bench.

The Lakers don’t have much to play for, but they’re playing hard anyway. It’s a nice thing to see.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, are in absolute must-win mode. They’re in ninth place in the conference.

Denver is a hard team to figure out. Nikola Jokic is one of the most talented young players in the league—a triple double threat on any given night and one of the best big man passers out there—but he also has games where it can be easy to forget he’s on the court. Jokic scored 36 points on 12-for-14 shooting, with 13 rebounds, and six assists in a Wednesday loss versus the Cavaliers, but took only five shots in back to back games against the Grizzlies and the Clippers before that. Denver’s playoff chances are largely dependent on Jokic putting together solid performances.

A Nuggets loss would give the Wolves a little more of a cushion.

Warriors at Blazers, 9:00 p.m., League Pass

If you’re only going to watch one game tonight, this one might be your best chance to see some incredible basketball.

Damian Lillard has found another level. He’s averaging 31.4 points and 4.8 threes per game in his last five to go along with six assists. He has confidently led the Blazers on an eight-game winning streak. Lillard has also dropped 44 and 39 on the Warriors this season. That’s the thing about being the defending champion—you get every team’s best every single night.

For the last several seasons the story with the Blazers has always been an elite offense coupled with an absolutely awful defense. This season, however, Portland has quietly become one of the best defensive teams in the league playing a hyper-conservative style that aims to take away high-value shots while banking on their opponents missing midrange jumpers.

The Warriors will be playing without Steph Curry, who won’t be traveling with the team to play the Wolves either. But Golden State still has Kevin Durant, who has lit up the Blazers this season. He averages 39 points against them—more than when he’s playing against any other team.

The Blazers’ rise in the Western Conference has pushed other teams (including the Wolves) into more tenuous positions heading into the season’s home stretch.

Wolves fans: We know it’s not fun to root for the Warriors, but if you’re ever going to do it, tonight’s a good night.

Cavaliers at Clippers, 9:30 p.m., NBATV

All hail King James.

LeBron came through for the Wolves when he carried Cleveland to a win over the Nuggets on Wednesday. He’ll try to keep earning the favor of Minnesotans tonight against the Clippers.

Los Angeles traded away their best player in Blake Griffin, but the player they got in return—Tobias Harris—has been making the Clippers’ front office look very smart. Harris is scoring 19.6 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field, and the Clippers, with perennial Sixth Man of the Year award candidate Lou Williams leading the charge, have been winning games!

While Portland vs. Golden State may be the game to watch tonight, this one is a close second. The Cavs are definitely making the playoffs, but they would love to maintain home court advantage in the first round and have only a short time to figure out how to consistently win games with their newly-acquired group of young players.

LeBron is amazing, and Larry Nance Jr. is awesome at dunking. The Clippers are only two games behind the Wolves. Go Cavs go.