By Mark Remme
It’s funny how just one number, one win, can make a difference. But after the Wolves’ 132-128 victory over the Nuggets in Denver on Monday night, capping off a 4-1 road trip, there was definitely a feeling that a single win made all the difference in Minnesota coming home extremely happy with its West Coast swing and merely being satisfied.
“It’s big—it sounds a lot better than 3-2,” forward Kevin Love said. “Obviously, we wish we could’ve been undefeated. The Portland game was tough, but we’re happy with the way we responded in the games after that.”
Indeed, they should be. The Wolves’ 4-1 road trip marks the sixth time the team has won at least four games on a trip in franchise history. Twice they went 4-0, and now three times they’ve gone 4-1. That, coupled with the 3-1 road trip they had in late January, means Minnesota went 7-2 on their two longest stints away from Target Center this season.
That’s big, considering the timing of this road trip and the significance within the season. Minnesota had dropped four games under .500 with one game to play before the All-Star Break. After bookending All-Star Weekend with two home wins against Denver and Indiana, the Wolves sat two games under .500 with an upcoming road trip approaching.
To make the playoffs, the Wolves needed to thrive on this road trip.
And they did.
The Wolves blew out Utah, came from behind in the fourth without Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin in Phoenix and took care of business against Sacramento and Denver—two teams below the Wolves in the standings.
A lone loss against Portland at the Moda Center coming off a back-to-back was the only blemish in the road trip. All things considered, Minnesota will take that outcome. To be a game above .500 and five games out of the eighth spot after being four games under 2 ½ weeks ago is a big step in the right direction.
“Like I told the team, we won four out of five on this trip,” coach Rick Adelman said. “Now you are going home. We know that it is all about. We have to come in with big efforts when we get home.”
We talked several times prior to this road trip about how important this stretch of games would be. The Wolves’ April hopes depended heavily on how they did in this road trip based on the margin for error they afforded themselves earlier in the year. That mentality hasn’t changed now that they’re home—for the most part, the locker room will need to have a win-or-go-home attitude from here on out. But getting through that stint away from home was pivotal, and it was a major first step.
The Wolves responded the way they needed to. That 4-1 record will go a long way, much further than a 3-2 record.
There are 23 games to play, 14 of which will be at home. The next four are against the Eastern Conference’s Knicks, Pistons, Raptors and Bucks. This is the next section of must-win basketball.
Minnesota put itself in much better position by taking four of five over the past 11 days.
“Every game counts from now on for us to get in the playoffs,” forward Corey Brewer said. “For us to go 4-1 on this road trip means a lot. Now we get to go home, four games at home, we need all those games, also. … Now we’re one game above .500, and we just need to keep going above .500. We need to keep moving, because teams aren’t losing right now. So we need to keep winning until they start losing.”
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