Signing Lance Stephenson to a 10-day contract might be a last-ditch effort to salvage the Timberwolves' season. But even if Stephenson plays like he did as the NBA triple-double leader of three years ago, it's probably too little too late.
Minnesota hosts the Raptors Wednesday in the third game of a six-game home stand, then it's 17 of the final 26 games on the road.
As if the 17 road games aren't brutal enough, the final nine home dates of the season include five likely playoff teams, and others in the running for a spot: Dallas, Portland, Los AngelesClippers, Golden State, Washington, San Antonio, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento and Oklahoma City.
Of the 17 remaining road opponents, nine currently occupy a playoff spot, not including the hottest team in the NBA, Miami (11 straight wins).
- San Antonio
- New Orleans
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Golden State
- Los Angeles Lakers
On Jan. 24, the Denver Nuggets were in eighth place in the Western Conference with .419 win percentage. Extrapolating that number over the course of an 82-game season resulted in a projected win total of 35, meaning the numbers were pointing to the 8-seed in the West finishing with approximately 35 wins.
That no longer holds true.
Denver, still the 8-seed, has increased its win percentage to .451, pushing their projected win total to 37.
The Wolves have to go 18-12 over their final 30 games to reach 37 wins. That seems unlikely considering the majority of their remaining games are on the road, where they win fewer than three of every 10 games.
Not to mention, despite being just 4.5 games behind Denver, the Wolves also trail New Orleans, Dallas, Sacramento and Portland.
To put playoff hopes in perspective, Minnesota, with a current .365 win percentage, has to almost double their win frequency to have a shot at snapping a 12-year playoff drought.
- .600 win percentage over final 30 games = 37 wins
- .550 win percentage over final 30 games = 35.5 wins
- .500 win percentage over final 30 games = 34 wins
- .450 win percentage over final 30 games = 32.5 wins
- .365 win percentage over final 30 games = 30 wins
And it doesn't help that Minnesota has reverted to the ugly defense that plagued them in the first quarter of the season. Head coach Tom Thibodeau accused players of resting on defense during a current four-game losing streak, in which they've allowed an average of 115 points.
"You have to look at reality and where we are – and how do we change it," Thibodeau said Tuesday, via Wolves Radio. "There's not that consistency that we need to be a good defensive team yet. We can get there, and we will get there."
While the Wolves are long shots to make the playoffs, they can increase their chances by taking care of business in seven games yet to play against Denver, New Orleans, Dallas, Sacramento and Portland.