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Updated: December 30th, 2013 10:23pm
Fun with Numbers: Schedule paves the way for Wolves to make playoffs

Fun with Numbers: Schedule paves the way for Wolves to make playoffs

by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS - I think the Wolves will make the playoffs.

I don't want to draw conclusions exclusively from one late-December game against the Mavericks. (Minnesota entered Monday as the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference, leaving it looking up at No. 8 Dallas and out of the current playoff picture.)

Instead, I'd just like to have a little fun with numbers.

To back up my premise, I'll contend that the Wolves are a decent team that has played the toughest extended stretch of its schedule.

To discern that I used an un-scientific method; an acceptable method, though, I think. I looked at the combined winning percentage of Wolves' opponents in each month. Yes, it's arbitrary to divide by months on the calendar, but we're having fun here.

I used records entering Monday, not the record the team sported at the time they played the Wolves. It's not a perfectly accurate portrayal of how good a team had played to the date of the game, but I prefer the larger sample size of games for this exercise. More than one-third of the way through the season, we have a general idea of if a team is good or bad, with several exceptions.

And since we're just having fun with arbitrary end points anyway, I've lumped the team's one October game into November. That's fair, since nothing changes with the flip of the calendar.

Here's what the quasi-Strength of Schedule looks like:

Home games are bolded.

November

Team

Record

Win Pct.

Result

Thunder

25-5

.833

Win

Knicks

9-21

.300

Win

Cavaliers

10-20

.333

Loss

Warriors

19-13

.594

Loss

Mavericks

17-13

.567

Win

Lakers

13-18

.419

Win

Clippers

21-11

.656

Loss

Cavaliers

10-20

.333

Win

Nuggets

14-15

.483

Loss

Celtics

13-17

.433

Win

Wizards

13-14

.481

Loss

Clippers

21-11

.656

Loss

Nets

10-20

.333

Win

Rockets

21-12

.636

Loss

Pacers

24-5

.828

Loss

Nuggets

14-15

.483

Loss

Mavericks

17-13

.567

Win

TOTAL

271-243

.527

Minnesota treaded water (8-9) against slightly better than average competition in the season's first full month.

December

Thunder

25-5

.833

   Loss

Spurs

24-7

.774

   PPD

Heat

23-7

.767

   Loss

Pistons

14-18

.438

   Win

76ers

9-21

.300

   Win

Spurs

24-7

.774

   Loss

Grizzlies

13-16

.448  

   Win

Celtics

13-17

.433

   Loss

Trail Blazers

24-6

.800

   Win

Lakers

13-18

.419

   Loss

Clippers

21-11

.656

   Loss

Wizards

13-14

.481

   Win

Bucks

6-24

.200

   Win

TOTAL

222-171

.565

I excluded the game that was not played in Mexico City against the Spurs; It's not fair to exaggerate the collective record of teams by including the Spurs an extra time. The Wolves finished 6-6 against better than average competiton.

January

Pelicans

13-15

.464

Thunder

25-5

.833

76ers

9-21

.300

Suns

18-11

.621

Bobcats

14-17

.452

Spurs

24-7

.774

Kings

9-20

.310

Raptors

13-15

.464

Jazz

9-24

.273

Jazz

9-24

.273

Warriors

19-13

.594

Trail Blazers

24-6

.800

Bulls

11-17

.393

Pelicans

13-15

.464

Grizzlies

13-16

.448

TOTAL

223-226

.497

Minnesota essentially will play against average teams and have a chance further establish itself as a Western Conference playoff contender.

 February

Hawks

17-14

.548

Lakers

13-18

.419

Thunder

25-5

.800

Pelicans

13-15

.464

Trail Blazers

24-6

.800

Rockets

21-12

.636

Nuggets

14-15

.483

Pacers

24-5

.828

Jazz

9-24

.273

Trail Blazers

24-6

.800

Suns

18-11

.621

TOTAL

201-131

.605

The toughest month in terms of opponent's win percentage also is the shortest. It includes elite teams like the Trail Blazers (twice), the Thunder and Pacers.

March

Kings

9-20

.310

Nuggets

14-15

.483

Knicks

9-21

.300

Pistons

14-18

.438

Raptors

13-15

.464

Bucks

6-24

.200

Bobcats

14-17

.452

Kings

9-20

.301

Mavericks

17-13

.567

Rockets

21-12

.636

Suns

18-11

.621

Grizzlies

13-16

.448

Hawks

17-14

.548

Lakers

13-18

.419

Nets

10-20

.333

Clippers

21-11

.656

TOTAL

218-265

.451

By this stretch of games we'll have a better idea about how legitimate Minnesota's playoff aspirations are. It's the softest month of the schedule based on this crude analysis.

April

Grizzlies

13-16

.448

Heat

23-7

.767

Magic

10-20

.333

Chicago

11-17

.393

Rockets

21-12

.636

Kings

9-20

.310

Warriors

19-13

.594

Jazz

9-24

.273

TOTAL

115-129

.471

Sure, the Wolves play tough teams like the Heat, Warriors and Rockets in April, but they also get to play the Jazz, Kings and Magic. April is hardly a terrifying stretch of matchups.

Other factors to consider:

--I didn't include back-to-back games. Wolves players have talked this season about having an inordinate number of consecutive game days so far this season. There could be room for further analysis here.

--The Wolves haven't had consecutive home games since Nov. 20 and 22.

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
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