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13 seasons later and the drought is over

Apr 12, 2018

The Minnesota Timberwolves, for the first time in 13 seasons, have made it past the regular season and into the playoffs. They are the eight seed and will face the top seeded Houston Rockets in the first round.

The Rockets are the best team in the league with a 65-17 record behind another MVP-like season from James Harden. The Wolves have faced the Rockets four times this season and have lost all four games. Jimmy Butler and the Wolves will have their hands full in the first round with Harden and Chris Paul running the back court.

After 12 straight seasons of having an under .500 record, the Wolves made some offseason changes. They brought over two of Tom Thibodeau’s, head coach, previous players, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. The Wolves also brought in Jeff Teague, who has yet to miss a year in the playoffs, and Jamal Crawford, who is in his 19th year in the league.

Before the season started, the Wolves had high hopes and were ready to end their playoff drought. Wiggins was starting his fourth season in the league and Towns, his third. Both players have been with the Wolves their whole career and finally have other weapons [Butler, Teague, Gibson and Crawford] to help them out.

And this year, the drought did indeed end, and in the classic Minnesota way, waiting till the last moment. It wasn’t supposed to be this close, but, a trend Minnesotans are all to familiar with came into play: Injuries. Countless times Minnesotan teams are having great seasons and a few injuries here and there hurt the team and sometimes turn them from a playoff team into either being a wild card team or missing the playoffs completely.

A few recent examples are the Minnesota Vikings, who started 5-0 in the 2016 season and then injuries took over and the Vikings ended the season with an 8-8 record and failed to make the playoffs. The Minnesota Wild, this year, lost their best defensemen in Ryan Suter just before the playoffs with a fractured ankle. This time it was the Wolves who paid for injuries.

Butler missed some early games due to an illness and a few games with knee soreness, in late December, Teague was sidelined due to a knee injury that gave Tyus Jones, point guard, a chance to play more minutes with the starters. Nemanja Bjelica was sidelined with a foot injury, and the most recent and hurtful injury was again to Butler when he tore his meniscus. In total, Butler missed 23 games, Bjelica missed 15, and Teague missed 12.

Before Butler eventually returned with three games remaining, it started to look like the Wolves were going to choke without him. Butler averaged 21.3 points in his final three games and scored 31 points to help the Wolves beat the Denver Nuggets last night to make the playoffs.

With all the scares throughout this season, there were plenty of positives that came from it. Karl-Anthony Towns led the league with 68 double-doubles while also averaging a double-double with 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. Butler averaged 22.2 points per game, his second highest point total in his career, and the Wolves finally had a point guard that could score while still averaging seven assists per game.

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