The Wolves have played well with the schedule they’ve been given. They’ve lost some head-scratchers to teams like Phoenix but they’ve generally handled their business against teams like the Lakers. No one should expect them to win every close game — nor should we expect that one game proves anything either way.
The schedule ramps up on Friday in Boston before coming back home on Saturday to face New Orleans. The Celtics are among the best in the league but the real prize could be in clinching the playoff tiebreaker over the Pelicans the next night. Having the head-to-head advantage over Boston only really matters if these teams meet in the Finals. The Pelicans, though, figure to be vying for the same playoff seeds as the Wolves.
Then on Monday, the Wolves play Cleveland followed by Oklahoma City. Both of these teams have been playing strong basketball after poor starts to the season. While LeBron James is playing arguably his best basketball of his career, the Wolves could also lock up a tiebreaker with the Thunder as well.
Playing the Knicks at home on Jan. 12 should be a good game but two nights later Minnesota plays its final home game against Portland for the season. This also happens to be the first of two meetings between the Wolves and Blazers this month. With one win against the Blazers already, the Wolves could also own that tiebreaker by the start of February. However, the Moda Center is a tough place to play and this Blazers team may be too talented to beat three times in a row.
Despite the lesser matchups like Orlando and Atlanta, the end of January is grueling. The Wolves play Toronto twice and Houston and Golden State on the road. If you’re counting, that makes four road games against Toronto, Boston, Golden State, and Houston. That’s in addition to three inter-division games and the game against New Orleans.
It all starts in Brooklyn on Wednesday and the Wolves will need to push up to 11 games above .500 in order to give themselves some cushion. Even if they drop games to the title contenders, there’s still the possibility to make it up against the weaker teams on the schedule. One thing seems clear for the surging Timberwolvs: it looks at a glance like there are more difficult games than easy ones in the coming weeks.