Formula for Wolves in second half is simple: Win
FEB 13, 2014 3:35p ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Corey Brewer knows a thing or two about second-half streaks.
Last season in Denver, he took part in a post-All-Star surge that carried the Nuggets to a franchise-record 57 wins and the Western Conference's No. 3 playoff seed. Denver went 24-4 after the break, a stretch that included a 15-game win streak.
Having lost six of its final eight contests and sitting well out of postseason contention entering this year's midseason respite, Brewer's current team isn't about to go on a run that produces 2012-13 Nuggets-like results. But with at least a mathematical chance of cracking the playoffs still alive, the small forward says there's evidence Minnesota can concoct a similar push.
"We've proved that we can win some games," Brewer said after Wednesday night after the Timberwolves took care of Denver at home.
"It's just," Brewer added before a brief pause, "we've got to win them."
It's a simple yet tenuous existence for this franchise as it enters the All-Star break. A return to health and a busy offseason that included the signings of Brewer and fellow free-agent starter Kevin Martin drove prognostication that a revamped, heavy-fire roster could perhaps sneak into the postseason, snapping the NBA's longest playoff drought at nine seasons.
With each close defeat and defensive breakdown, those hopes have begun eroding. At 25-28, a substantial excavation project is necessary to see them fulfilled.
"We got a lot of work to do just to give ourselves a chance to get in," Brewer said.
At minimum, that entails the Timberwolves winning 20 of their final 29 games. That'd put them at 45-37, the minimum final tally for a Western Conference team to crack the bracket in the past five years, excluding the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
But with the West as wild as it is this season, that likely wouldn't be enough.
Phoenix (30-21) and Golden State (31-22), currently the conference's No. 7 and 8 seeds, need only to win about half of their remaining games to hit the 45-win plateau. If those two and sixth-seeded Dallas (32-22) don't falter, it's conceivable the final three Western Conference playoff teams would all finish at or near the 50-win mark, similar to the 2010-11 campaign's conclusion.
For Minnesota to be "safe," it can ill afford to lose more than four or five contests the rest of the way.
That's a Nikola Pekovic-sized ask for a team that's lost 12 games by four points or less and hasn't won more than three in a row all season.
Improbable. Not impossible.
"There's still a chance for a nice push," All-Star forward Kevin Love said. "We just have to go out there, and we have to take it."
A six-game swing out of the gate will either prove or disprove the validity of Love's optimism. The Timberwolves host Eastern Conference leader Indiana next Wednesday, then embark on a five-game road trip -- their longest of the season.
Utah and Sacramento after ample rest shouldn't be hard to handle. But Portland on the second night of a back-to-back and Phoenix on the road surely will be.
The margin for error is smaller than the downtown Minneapolis arena's notoriously cramped visitor's dressing room.
"We have to come back (strong) from the break," coach Rick Adelman said. "We've got Indiana and a five-game road trip, so we know where we stand."
Central to any opportunity for a Timberwolves turnaround is the health of Pekovic and Martin. The center is out with right-ankle bursitis but expected back shortly after the break -- he must be cleared to practice first -- while the shooting guard's broken left thumb will be reevaluated just before Minnesota leaves for Salt Lake City.
Martin said Wednesday he hopes to be allowed to play by then.
But hope, at this time of year, is a precarious thing.
"Hopefully, Pek will be back, his ankle will start feeling better," Love said. "And K-Mart will be the same way. But we've just got to fight with the guys that we have, and hopefully that'll be enough for us. We just need to be together. Hopefully, that'll push us over the top."
In addition to playing -- and staying -- at full strength, the Timberwolves must figure out how to finish. Although their 105.5 points per game is tied for third in the NBA, they're 1-12 in games decided by four points or less.
Much of that is attributed to a defense yielding an opponents' combined shooting of 46.8 percent, the league's worst mark.
But the biggest key to salvaging this season, Brewer said, comes from the mental realm.
"It's all about confidence," Brewer said. "I feel like if you get your confidence together, the team starts playing together, then you can win games."
Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter