Timberwolves still battling for No. 6 spot in West with 2 games left

Karl-Anthony Towns (32) of the Minnesota Timberwolves backs down Aaron Gordon (50) of the Denver Nuggets during the first quarter on Wednesday, December 15, 2021.  ((Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images))

The Minnesota Timberwolves have two regular season games left, and are still chasing the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference to avoid a play-in series for the NBA Playoffs.

The path got a lot simpler after the Timberwolves let a golden opportunity slip away Tuesday night in a 132-114 loss to the Washington Wizards Tuesday night. It came on a night where the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets, teams they are each chasing, both lost. The Timberwolves (45-35) are currently two games behind the Nuggets for the No. 6 spot.

The Timberwolves need to beat the Spurs Thursday night, and the Bulls on Sunday. They also need the Nuggets to lose to the Grizzlies Thursday, and the Lakers Sunday, to jump to the No. 6 spot. Unlikely, but not impossible. Any Minnesota loss or Denver win, and the Timberwolves are the No. 7 seed for the Western Conference Playoffs.

The NBA on Thursday released the likely schedule for the league’s play-in games to determine the final two seeds on each conference next week. If the Timberwolves are indeed the No. 7 see, they would host the L.A. Clippers in a one-game playoff at Target Center. That game is tentatively set for Tuesday, April 12, and will be televised nationally on TNT. The time is to be determined. Win that game, and the Timberwolves are the No. 7 seed for the Western Conference Playoffs and would likely face the Grizzlies.

If the Timberwolves were to lose that game, they would still have one more chance to earn the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. They would host the winner of the 9/10 play-in game, currently the Spurs and Pelicans. That game would be played Friday night on TNT. Regardless of how the rest of this week shakes out, the Timberwolves can do no worse than the No. 7 spot.

The Timberwolves have made the Western Conference Playoffs just once since their 2004 run to the Western Conference Finals. This year marks the fourth time in 18 years they’ve won at least 40 games in the regular season.

They’ve given themselves, at worst, two chances on their home court to earn a spot in the NBA Playoffs.