Shabazz Muhammad is in his fifth season, both with the Timberwolves and in the NBA. In all that time he hasn’t experienced a five-game winning streak. He hasn’t known what it felt like to be even four games above .500.
So this is new. The 7-3 Timberwolves, four games over .500 for the first time since January of 2007, will play at Golden State on Wednesday in a regular-season game that actually matters. A Wolves win would tie them with Houston for the best record in the Western Conference. The defending champion Warriors (8-3), meanwhile, would take over sole possession of first in the conference with a victory.
Yes, it’s early. But this nationally televised game is new territory for the Wolves.
“It’s fun,” Muhammad said. “I mean, winning is always fun. I’ve been here for years, and we haven’t really won. That’s something that’s changing around here. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Veterans such as Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford have played in big games before. To them, this isn’t new. But there are a lot of players on this roster — and many, many fans watching — for whom this is a new experience.
And while there will still be 71 more games after this one ends, this is a chance for the Wolves — who have won five in a row for the first time since January of 2009 — to prove they might be ready to run with the Western Conference big boys.
“We had a chance to see ’em in China,” said Crawford, talking about the two preseason games the teams played against each other. “It was just preseason. But every time you play against the champions, you want to see where you’re at.”
Numbers point to determined improvement. The Wolves, sixth in the league in scoring, have scored over 100 points in nine consecutive games, the second longest such streak in franchise history. On the other side, Minnesota has kept three opponents in a row under 100 points. The starters have shown balance, the bench promise. On the other hand, the Wolves haven’t beaten a team that had a winning record as of Tuesday morning. Playing against the Warriors — who have won seven of their past eight games and lead the league in scoring — will be the season’s biggest challenge thus far.
“It’s always an opportunity when you play against a world championship team,” Gibson said. “It’s always good to play the best of the best to see where you’re at, but still learn at the same time.”
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t about to attach any kind of special meaning to one game early in the season.
“It’s significant because it’s the next game,” he insisted.
But Thibodeau always says the games tell you where you are. And, in this case, it could be meaningful information.
“You want to see where you are,” Thibodeau said. “How you measure up. You know, everyone in the league is chasing these guys. They’re the defending champions. It’s a team that has been to a bunch of finals now, got a couple championships. It will be a good test for us.”
No, it won’t be the final test. As Crawford said, the season isn’t won or lost in a single game.
“If we win the game, great,” he said. “We still have  more. You can’t get too high or low in this league. Things change fast. I mean, we were 2-1 and we lost two games and everyone was like, ‘What’s wrong with the T-Wolves?’ And we win five games in a row.”
wolves at Golden St.
9:30 p.m. Wed. (FSN, ESPN)