NEW YORK — Center Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves didn't seem too displeased with the effort in a 115-107 loss to the Wizards.
"I thought we gave ourselves a chance, which is a good sign to know that even when we play probably some of our worst basketball of the year, we still felt we should've won the game," said Towns, who was feeling "better than he thought he would" after taking a hard fall in the fourth quarter.
In their stretch of winning eight of nine games before Wednesday, the Wolves were able to get away without playing their best basketball against some teams because of their strength of schedule. It might not have taken a lot to beat the likes of Sacramento and New Orleans, but as the Wolves enter December, playing just OK isn't going to cut it. That's because the Wolves have the most difficult schedule in the league in December, according to an analysis from NBA.com. Only one team they play the rest of the month has a record below .500 (Denver).
The schedule ramped up against Washington on Wednesday and will again with Brooklyn on the road Friday. The Nets lead the Eastern Conference, and the Wizards were in a three-way tie for second entering Thursday.
The days of playing New Orleans, Houston and Sacramento are over for now — they'll be back on the schedule in the new year — and the Wolves will find out just where they stand by the time 2022 comes around.
"Hey, listen, if we're trying to do what we want to do and go where we want to go, you got to play and beat these teams," coach Chris Finch said. "A lot of [December games] are against first-time opponents for us, too, or Eastern Conference opponents. It's good. We didn't play our best game [Wednesday], but we certainly played well enough to win this game at times."
The Wolves will have to do better than "at times" if they want to prove they're worthy of playoff discussion over the next month.
After Brooklyn, the Wolves return home for games against Atlanta and Utah, who they will face three times in December. Last season the Wolves beat the Jazz three times. The Wolves also have a home-and-home series with Dallas a few days before Christmas.
The only thing the schedule has going in the Wolves' favor is the lack of back-to-back games with travel. The Wolves play only one set of games on consecutive nights and those are both at home against Boston and New York on Dec. 27 and 28.
The Wolves have proved they can win tough games against some of the better teams in the league — Miami, Milwaukee and Philadelphia, teams the Wolves have defeated, are in the top 10 in terms of net rating.
The issue with a young team such as the Wolves is playing the way it takes to beat those teams on a consistent basis. If that doesn't happen, the Wolves could find themselves beginning a new losing streak. Not that they're worried about that.
"I feel like we're pretty good," guard Anthony Edwards said. "We've got nothing to worry about. We're just as good as every other team in the league, so I don't think this month will be tough at all. We're just as good as any team you can name."
But can they show it on a nightly basis? December will prove that.
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Timberwolves' tough December schedule
The only team on this slate with a losing record is Denver:
- Dec. 1: at Wash. (L, 115-107)
- Dec. 3: at Brooklyn
- Dec. 6: vs. Atlanta
- Dec. 8: vs. Utah
- Dec. 10: vs. Cleveland
- Dec. 12: at Portland
- Dec. 15: at Denver
- Dec. 17: vs. L.A. Lakers
- Dec. 19: vs. Dallas
- Dec. 21: at Dallas
- Dec. 23: at Utah
- Dec. 27: vs. Boston
- Dec. 28: vs. New York
- Dec. 31: at Utah