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Notebook: Don’t look now but hot stretch has put Wolves in good spot in the standings

Wolves impressive in sweeping five-game homestand

Winning five games in a row is good any time. How about a five-game winning streak at home against some of the league’s best? Well, that’s even better. Let’s take a look at some superlatives.

  • The Wolves have now won eight in a row at home, their longest streak since the 2004 season when they won 14 consecutive.
  • These games were a display of dominance. The Wolves managed to win all five games by double digits. Maybe the Wolves can tie the franchise record of six on Tuesday.
  • There had been two other perfect five-game homestands in team history: 1999 and 2001. Not even the beloved 2004 team can boast that.
  • After beating the Blazers by 17 on Sunday, the Wolves moved to 14-1 against the Western Conference at home this season.

It’s incredible to see how far this team has come. When they lost those two games in dull fashion without Jimmy Butler early in the season, it seemed unlikely they could blow the Cavaliers out by 28 points. You would think they would have lost one game to the Pelicans, Thunder, Blazers, or Knicks too. Instead, they rose to the moment night after night.

In their last five games, the Timberwolves have played like one of the best teams in the league. They’re tied for second in points per game and lead the league in point differential over that stretch.

If you’re among the top teams in net rating or point differential, that means that you’re not just outscoring teams; it means you’re also playing defense. The Timberwolves have the eighth-best defensive rating of any team in their last five games. For the games that haven’t been wire-to-wire wins, the Wolves have used their defensive ability to put teams away in the second half.

What’s keeping the Wolves away from truly being one of the league’s best is their record away from home. The Wolves are just 11-10 on the road compared to Houston who are 15-5 or Golden State who are 19-3. Fortunately, there will be a couple of easy ones on the schedule with games in Atlanta and Orlando upcoming. Should the Timberwolves hope to gain more ground in the standings, they’ll need to get some of their Target Center magic to-go.

Don’t look now but…

With a 102-99 victory, the Atlanta Hawks dropped the San Antonio Spurs to 29-16 on the season. The Timberwolves are also 29-16. Therefore, the Timberwolves are now tied for third place in the Western Conference with the Spurs.

Supplanting the Spurs for sole possession of third place will be difficult. The Timberwolves have a number of difficult games remaining this month, including Houston, Toronto, and Golden State. February offers little respite as the Wolves face Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Houston early in the month.

The Wolves will have to be opportunistic against teams like Brooklyn, Orlando, and Atlanta just to keep pace. Then again, Atlanta has played well at home recently and the Wolves already lost to Brooklyn this season. But these are winnable games and ones that will be needed if they hope to leapfrog the Spurs.

There won’t be a head-to-head meeting between these teams until March 17. It is unusual that they only play the Spurs three times instead of four but it’s hard to complain about missing an extra game against a formidable opponent.

Amile Jefferson fills second two-way contract slot

The great thing about the G-League is that you have the opportunity to stand out close to home. Amile Jefferson averaged 18 points and 13 rebounds on 64 percent shooting over 22 games with the Iowa Wolves. In Iowa’s two games in the G-League Showcase, Jefferson elevated his game further, averaging 22 points and 14.5 rebounds on 65 percent shooting.

It’s safe to say that Jefferson may be ready for the next challenge in his career.

What Jefferson will bring to the Timberwolves will remain to be seen. Jefferson is a 6’9” combo forward who doesn’t spread the floor. But that hardly matters when you shot over 60 percent in your three-year college career and in the G-League. Having also averaged 7.4 rebounds per game in college and continuing to rebound well for Iowa, it’s safe to say he can rebound; that’s a skill that typically translates from level to level.

Yet, barring injury, it seems unlikely we see Jefferson this season. Anthony Brown is the Wolves’ other two-way contract player and hasn’t been called up despite having 40 games of NBA experience. With the Wolves in the midst of a playoff run, it seems unlikely that a player with no experience like Jefferson would see the court before the player with experience.

But the Timberwolves had the available slot and Jefferson makes sense to use it on based on his play. There was never any real reason for that spot not to be used sooner unless the team couldn’t decide who to use it on.

Random Timberwolf from History: Brian Evans

I know, I know. Stop picking all of the well-known players. Well, I what about the player that the random number generator tells me to. Let’s see if this can be interesting.

Brian Evans was a 6’8” small forward from the University of Indiana. The four-year Hoosiers player was an AP third-team All-American and the Big 10 MVP in 1996. Evans was subsequently selected 27th overall by the Orlando Magic in the 1996 draft.

Despite being a knockdown shooter in college, Evans struggled to find his shot. Sure, he hit 50 percent of his 3-pointers as a rookie but played just 14 games that season and took just 0.6 per game. None of his other numbers were outstanding, either.

Playing for a veteran team like the Magic didn’t help Evans earn minutes. Stuck behind veterans like Dennis Scott and others, Evans was dealt to New Jersey in his second season after 58 games as a Magic. It was there where Evans would become a 3-point specialist in a small role, taking 1.4 3-pointers per game in 11.6 minutes per game and hitting 39.6 percent of them.

Evans’ career led him to the Timberwolves in the Spring of 1999. The Timberwolves acquired Terrell Brandon, Evans, and a first-round draft pick in exchange for Stephon Marbury, Chris Carr, and Bill Curley. It took the Wolves all of five games to see all they needed to of Evans and waived him on March 26, 1999.

After playing overseas through 2005, Evans took ownership in an Indiana medical company in 2010, according to his LinkedIn page. Evans may not be a big name but his career has had its share of twists and turns.


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