The Denver Nuggets keep winning and the Wolves can't seem to keep up, but that doesn't mean Karl-Anthony Towns and company aren't worth watching down the stretch.
With 15 games to go they're still in the hunt, but at 4 1/2 games behind the Nuggets their chances are bleak. According to PlayoffStatus.com, we're talking about a 2% shot at breaking a 12-year playoff drought.
That doesn't change the fact that Minnesota, as ESPN's Zach Lowe wrote Friday, has "transformed into a two-way terror" since Feb. 1.
With a record of 9-10 since Feb. 1, Lowe's words might seem far-fetched, but take a look at these ratings comparisons. They're much improved on offense while showing a slight improvement on defense.
- Offensive rating since Feb. 1: 110.4 (6th)
- Offensive rating before Feb. 1: 106.6 (12th)
- Defensive rating since Feb. 1: 107.9 (17th)
- Defensive rating before Feb. 1: 107.2 (23rd)
- Net rating since Feb. 1: 2.5 (tied 10th)
- Net rating before Feb. 1: -0.6 (15th)
Net rating is simple. It's how many points the Timberwolves allow per 100 possessions subtracted from how many points they score per 100 possessions.
Houston, San Antonio, Golden State, Utah and Dallas are the only Western Conferences teams with a better net rating than Minnesota since Feb. 1. That's an impressive feat over a dependable sample size.
Wolves ranks in other stats (per game) since Feb. 1
- Field goal percentage: 47.5 (5th)
- Offensive rebounds: 12.2 (2nd)
- Assists: 24.3 (tied 5th)
- Turnovers: 12.9 (6th)
- Steals: 8.2 (8th)
The only area the Wolves have really taken a step back is 3-point shooting. Without Zach LaVine, lost in early February to a torn ACL, the Wolves are last in the NBA with an average of 6.7 made threes per game.
Even if the Wolves fail to make the playoffs, they're still surging in the right direction.
More from Lowe on specific players
On Towns: "He's slapping up 30-15 lines as if they are routine. I'm not sure any big man can match his combination of speed and brute strength."
On Ricky Rubio: "Rubio is shooting when he's open, and making enough jumpers to justify what must feel to him like an unnatural uptick in aggression. If defenses respect him, that will unlock more passing lanes for a guy who already ranks as perhaps the world's most creative passer."
On Andrew Wiggins: "Andrew Wiggins is filling all the gaps, only he's so talented, he can pile up 25 points that way and toss in some functional pick-and-roll work when Rubio rests."