The Wild and Timberwolves lost in the first round of the playoffs, but it seems that to the average Minnesota sports fan, these teams have nothing in common.
The Wild, they say, are a gritty, cohesive bunch led by the admirable Kirill Kaprizov.
The Timberwolves, they say, are a soft, divisive group hamstrung by the emotional outbursts of Karl-Anthony Towns.
For the past two weeks, virtually every Minnesotan I've encountered has complained about the weather, then Towns. Or vice versa. He complains too much. He's too erratic. He sounds too emotional during interviews.
Which is strange, because here is how these teams' seasons ended:
The Wild, playing against a team of similar capability, took a 2-1 series lead, then choked, losing the next three games and failing to even compete in the last two, including a Game 6 at home. They were outscored 8-1 in their last two games, Kaprizov all but disappeared, and their chances were damaged by the out-of-control play of Marcus Foligno, who looked so crazed that he drew penalties even when he didn't deserve them.
They should be embarrassed.
The Timberwolves, despite a season and playoffs made more difficult because of key injuries and illnesses and the incorporation of a new center and point guard, were outclassed by the best team in the Western Conference in the first game of their series. All they had to do was play passively for three more games, and they could start their vacations.
Instead, they put up a fight in Games 2 and 3, won Game 4 with a thrilling overtime performance, and saw Anthony Edwards narrowly miss a three-pointer in Game 5 that would have sent them into another overtime.
The Wild collapsed against a team they could have beaten. The Wolves played progressively better against a No. 1 seed. There is no comparison.
Now let's contrast Kap and KAT.
Kaprizov is considered an inspirational player. At least, he was before this series. Against Dallas, he deflected in a goal in the first period of the first game, then went pointless the next 17 periods. He vanished when his team needed him most.
Towns is currently the primary target of Minnesota fan angst. In the last three games of a series that felt hopeless, he averaged 23.3 points and 9.6 rebounds and shot 56% from the field.
Does he complain to the officials too much? Sure. But that would be an easier criticism to take seriously if the Golden State Warriors hadn't won four titles with the most egregious complainer in basketball, Draymond Green.
Here's the list of the top 10 players in NBA history in terms of technical fouls drawn: Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Rasheed Wallace, Gary Payton, Dennis Rodman, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal.
I'm sure Timberwolves fans wouldn't have wanted any of these players on their team. Especially that Garnett guy.
While Wolves fans were complaining more about Towns than Towns was complaining to the refs, Foligno was screaming obscenities at officials and opponents while playing in a league that encourages players to periodically stop the game so they can punch each other repeatedly in the face.
Somehow we're supposed to believe that screaming, drawing penalties and fighting makes hockey players supreme competitors, but arguing officials' calls makes basketball players annoying whiners.
We don't know Kaprizov well off the ice, and he seems to like it that way. What we actually know about Towns seems to get erased by clichéd perceptions.
Towns is known within the Timberwolves organization for being good-hearted and charitable. When the Wolves traded for Rudy Gobert, he welcomed Gobert and altered his game to make Gobert comfortable on the offensive end. When it became clear that Anthony Edwards was becoming the Wolves' go-to star, Towns didn't complain, and found a way to thrive in a complementary role as the playoffs progressed.
Take all of the common criticisms about Towns, apply them to the local NHL team, and you'll be edging closer to reality.
Minnesota needs a new punching bag. Preferably someone less productive, and less decent, than Towns.