All Things Considered

Timberwolves ‘pinch me’ season continues Thursday night in Minneapolis

Fans without coveted playoff tickets can attend a free block party downtown

a basketball player is shown on a screen
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards is announced Friday before Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Finals at Target Center.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Can they do it? It is the question Timberwolves fans and NBA analysts are asking as the team faces the Mavericks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals Thursday night at Target Center.

Every game is critical for third-seeded Minnesota, with them being down 3-1 in a best-of-seven series against No. 5 seed Dallas.

Minnesota flirting with the idea of reaching the Finals is has been a jolt for the team and fans — something that has never been accomplished in the franchise’s nearly 35-year history.

And whether they can keep winning is a matter of a few factors, said Britt Robson, a MinnPost reporter who has been following the team for more than three decades.

“The odds aren’t great,” he said. “It hasn’t been done in 154 tries … but what I will say is that Timberwolves have home court advantage. They are a higher seed than the team they’re facing, the Dallas Mavericks. So to that extent, there’s that advantage. They do have a very good team.”

And, he pointed out, they won on Tuesday.

“They did figure out a few things the other night,” he said. “Their stars outplayed Dallas’ stars for the first time in the series. So there obviously is some momentum going.”

The Wolves beat the Dallas Mavericks with a final score of 105-100 to keep their NBA Finals hopes alive.

So the question is: Now what?

Timberwolves Mavericks Basketball
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) reacts to a play during the second half in Game 4 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks, Tuesday in Dallas.
Julio Cortez | AP

“They have to continue to find ways to flummox Dallas’ two stars; they need to continue to figure out ways to bother them,” he said. “And then on the other hand, the Timberwolves two stars, Anthony Edwards and Karl Anthony Towns have to continue the hot shooting that they demonstrated [Tuesday] night for the first time in the series.”

Robson also pointed out the good vibes within the team as being a key reason why this Wolves team could be the squad to rewrite NBA history. Even with the odds stacked against them.

“I think it’s the chemistry,” Robson said. “I think the chemistry is born of the fact that they had the top-rated defense in the NBA by quite a large margin this year. And when a team plays defense as diligently and as hard as the Timberwolves do, there’s a chemistry and a bond that gets created.”

He compared it to a barn raising of sorts.

“Imagine helping your friends move out of your home or to paint a house, or plant a garden,” Robson added to paint the picture of Minnesota’s internal bond. “When five or six people are getting together to do that and it’s really hard work, you feel better about each other and you feel closer to each other after it’s done. Well, the Timberwolves have done that 82 games during the regular season, and just on some occasions really suffocated the opponent. It takes a lot of hard work, it take a lot of cohesion to build that type of defense. What happens is I think you become closer as a team and that clearly has been the case for them this season.”

With Tuesday’s victory, the Wolves avoided being the 16th team out of 21 to get swept after losing the first three games of a series that started at home. Now they’ll try to be just the fourth to force at least six games.

Another important stat to gives fans hope: Minnesota is 3-0 in playoff elimination games in this year’s playoffs.

“I think Timberwolves fans have kind of [felt that] it’s been a ‘pinch me’ season anyway,” Robson said. “They’ve gone as far in the playoffs as they’ve ever gone in their 35-year history. And so the idea of going even further than that, they figure ‘Why not?’ It’s all gravy at this point.”

Minnesota will play Dallas Thursday night in Minneapolis at Target Center for their consequential Game 5 bout. The game will start at 7:30 p.m. Central and be broadcast on TNT.

Fans looking for a gamelike atmosphere without the cost of a coveted playoff ticket can attend a free block party outside Target Center. Advance tickets are required.

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