Jim Souhan
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With their first consecutive losses since Jan. 20 and 22, the Timberwolves have fallen out of the Western Conference lead, a half-game behind Oklahoma City.

Their 89-88 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon at Target Center left the Wolves winless in March and invigorated questions about their high turnover ratio, offensive efficiency in clutch situations and ability to score in transition against quality teams.

Grading on a mixture of talent, pedigree and recent play, here are my altered Western Conference power rankings:

1. Denver Nuggets

Denver is the NBA's best team until proved otherwise, and nobody has proved otherwise. The Nuggets eased through the playoffs last year to win the league title and have won six consecutive games.

They lost three straight games in mid-February and have been dominant since. Nikola Jokic remains the most valuable player in basketball, and Wolves executive Tim Connelly's previous team knows how to win. They have three games remaining against the Wolves. Look out.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles beat the Wolves in Minneapolis with James Harden missing all 10 of his shots from the field. The Clippers are 31-10 since the beginning of December. Theoretically, the Wolves match up well against them because they have multiple wing defenders who can guard Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Harden. On Sunday, NBA sixth man of the year candidate Norman Powell made nine of 13 field-goal tries and scored 24 points. The Wolves' highly regarded bench had four players produce a total of 25 points.

3. Wolves

Losing two straight to fall out of the conference lead is a first-world problem, but each of the two losses came against teams the Wolves could see in the playoffs, in Sacramento and the Clippers, and both highlighted the Wolves' iffy offense at the end of close games.

The Wolves have a size advantage over both teams, but on Friday night their defense failed to slow the Kings, and on Sunday their offense looked awkward and indecisive, featuring poor spacing and decision-making from their best players.

Is this a lull or a problem? "Yeah, we're getting it all out of the way right now," Wolves veteran forward Kyle Anderson said with a smile. "In the playoffs, it's going to be great — and down the stretch. Look, we're still a young team. I think people forget that we have a lot of young guys out there. We've got to grow up and figure it out, and I think we will learn from our mistakes."

Naz Reid shooting 0-for-7 from the field and an athletic Wolves team allowing 19 fast-break points while scoring zero? Those are probably aberrant occurrences. Their recurring problem is taking and making the right shots in end-of-game situations.

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4. Oklahoma City Thunder

This might seem unfair because OKC, which won Sunday night in Phoenix to move to first place in the conference, leads the conference in scoring and point differential and has stayed with the Wolves near the top of the standings all season.

In terms of their performance this season, the Thunder probably deserve to be higher than fourth. But they haven't won a playoff series since 2016 and have to perform at a high level offensively to have a chance against other good teams.

5. Phoenix Suns

Phoenix has had a spotty season while trying to incorporate Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal, but the Suns could be dangerous down the stretch and in the playoffs.

6. Sacramento Kings

As the Kings displayed Friday night at Target Center, they are a difficult matchup for even a top defensive team to guard.

7. New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans, the oddest good team in the NBA, relies heavily on two power forwards, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, making difficult two-point shots. But when Williamson is healthy and spry, he can devastate even a strong interior defense.

8. Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic is capable of winning a series by himself.

9. Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James is turning back the clock.

10. Golden State Warriors

Steph Curry, like James and Doncic, is a scary player on a flawed roster.

The Wolves could put together the best or second-best season in franchise history and wind up with a first-round playoff matchup that they wouldn't win the way they're currently playing.

Are they dealing with lasting problems or experiencing a lull?

Their next road trip, and their three remaining games against Denver, could provide the answer.