The NBA's Western Conference has been absurdly competitive all season and is only even more so now that there are just a handful of games left for each team.
The Wolves, at 37-37, are packed right in the middle of a mass of nine teams separated by just three games from the No. 4 to the No. 12 spot.
On Friday's Daily Delivery podcast, Wolves beat writer Chris Hine and I tried to discern how many of the Wolves final eight games they will need to win in order to feel good (or not so good) about their postseason chances.
Remember, the breakdown is such: The top six teams are automatically in the playoffs. Teams 7-10 qualify for the play-in tournament. The No. 7 team hosts No. 8, while the No. 9 hosts the No. 10. The winner of 7 vs. 8 is in the playoffs (as the Wolves were last year after beating the Clippers), while the loser of 7 vs. 8 hosts the winner of 9 vs. 10 in one game to determine the final spot.
If the Wolves in their final eight games ...
Go 5-3: They would feel very good about finishing at least in the top-eight and getting two cracks at the play-in to reach the playoffs, and they would feel at least decent about their chances of finishing top-6 outright. If they go 6-2 or better, a top-6 finish is likely.
Go 4-4: This seems to be the most likely outcome just looking at their schedule and is their predicted fate per Basketball Reference. This would give them an even 41-41 record, which should be good enough at least for a top-10 finish and quite possibly a top-eight.
Go 3-5 or worse: The Wolves might squeeze in as the No. 9 or 10 if they finish 40-42, but that's a tough route to the playoffs given that they would need to win twice in elimination games. It could also leave them 11th or 12th, and anything worse than 3-5 almost certainly would knock them out of any postseason play.
The key: Sunday's game at Golden State feels like it could set the tone one way or another. A win would make the rest of a three-game road trip (second leg of back-to-back at Sacramento, then at Phoenix) less daunting, and it would make a path to a top-6 seed much easier. A loss would put pressure on the rest of the trip and could start a slide. The final five games (Lakers, Blazers, at Nets, at Spurs and Pelicans) is more forgiving, but the Wolves can't afford an 0-3 road trip.
The ace in the hole: The Wolves hold tiebreaker edges over a lot of the teams they are bunched up with, including the Clippers, Mavericks and Lakers. That certainly helps when the margins are so thin.