The situation, according to Karl-Anthony Towns, is desperate.
His Wolves had just lost to San Antonio at Target Center, a loss that left the team with a 21-24 record, good for 11th place in the 15-team Western Conference.
The All-Star break is not far away and, in Towns’ view, the team very much needed to make a run.
“It’s desperation,’’ he said. “You have to put yourself in a position with the All-Star Game coming up, to position yourself to give yourself a chance. It’s all about putting yourself in a spot to strike.’’
Friday’s loss left the Wolves three games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. And Minnesota will play its next four games in seven days, three of them on the road, starting with Sunday’s game vs. Phoenix at Target Center.
It’s time for a run.
“I feel we’re capable of it,’’ Andrew Wiggins said. “That what you need, to get back in that playoff run.’’
The Wolves are 8-12 in their past 20 games, 6-9 under Tom Thibodeau, and 2-3 since Ryan Saunders took over as interim coach.
But even a stretch of schedule that has so many games packed into a week offers an opportunity.
The Wolves play Phoenix on Sunday, then play the Suns in Phoenix on Tuesday, consecutive games against the worst team in the Western Conference. After that is a game Thursday against the Lakers in Los Angeles. The Lakers could very well still be without LeBron James, who is still rehabbing a groin injury.
It is a three-game stretch in which a team could make some strides.
Of course, the Wolves have shown the ability to play down to the level of their opponents this season. The most recent example is a home loss to Dallas. Before that there was a loss at Phoenix on Dec. 15.
But the opportunity is there. After the Lakers game the Wolves play at Utah on Friday, with a rematch against the Jazz at Target Center Jan. 27.
“We talked about that today,’’ Saunders said. “We talked about our upcoming games. Obviously we take it game by game. We’re looking at Phoenix. But we did talk about what we’re facing ahead of us.’’
The Wolves will need to get better on the road to put a streak together. Minnesota is 6-16 on the road this season and just 2-13 vs. Western Conference teams.
Taj Gibson said the Wolves are capable of a run, if:
“You have to take it one day at a time, and understand what you have to do,’’ he said. “We’re messing up coverages, and we’re messing up plays and certain things like that, deep in a crucial moment of the game.’’
With the exception of the loss in Philadelphia, the Wolves’ games under Saunders have been close, with the other four being decided by four or fewer points. After Saturday’s practice Saunders said he thought was encouraging.
But what would be most encouraging would be handling the Suns, who will be finishing a four-game road trip, with Sunday’s game the back end of back-to-back games. Charlotte beat the Suns 135-115 on Saturday.
“Next game we have to start,’’ Jeff Teague said. “It’s a must-win game for us.’’