Wolves Monday: Schedule slowing down

After losing a close one to the Knicks, 94-91, the Timberwolves completed their tough stretch against the Heat, Thunder and Knicks with a 1-2 record, which isn’t terrible considering the circumstances. This week, their schedule eases up immensely; they have just two games all week, against Houston and Phoenix. In fact, between now and Jan. 2, next Wednesday, the Wolves play just twice before heading into a stretch in which they play six of eight on the road in a span of 13 days.
 
Where things stand: After dropping three of four last week, the Timberwolves’ record fell to 13-12, third-best in the Northwest Division behind Oklahoma City and Denver, which has improved to 15-13 after winning four of five. Here’s a look at where the two conferences stand in terms of playoff teams if the season were to end after eight weeks:
 
East: (1) Heat, (2) Knicks, (3) Hawks, (4, tie) Bulls and Pacers, (6, tie) Bucks and Nets, (8) Celtics. On the bubble: The 76ers are a game out of eighth place, the Magic a 1.5.
 
West: (1) Thunder, (2) Clippers, (3) Spurs, (4) Grizzlies, (5) Warriors, (6, tie) Rockets and Nuggets, (8) Timberwolves. On the bubble: The Jazz, like the Timberwolves, are also 7.5 games out of first place, but they have a worse winning percentage, .520 to .517. The Trail Blazers are a half game out of eighth place, the Lakers a game out.
 
Interesting notes:
  • — Five of last year’s playoff teams, the 76ers, Magic, Mavericks, Jazz and Lakers, are currently among the league’s 14 worst teams.
  • — Of the teams currently among the top eight in their respective conferences, the Bucks (-1.5) and Celtics (-0.6) have negative point differentials. All teams in the top eight in the West have positive point differentials.
  • — Of the teams currently among the bottom seven in their respective conferences, only the Lakers have a positive point differential, of +2.7. In fact, that’s the seventh-best point differential in the league, though the Lakers currently sit at 13-14.
  • — Longest current winning streaks: The Clippers have won 13 in a row, the Raptors five in a row.
  • — Longest losing streaks: The Bobcats have lost 15 in a row, the Hornets 1 in a row, the Wizards seven in a row.
  • — The Western Conference sits at 101-69 against the East so far this year, off to a dominant start. The Timberwolves are 6-7 against Eastern Conference teams, one of seven Western Conference teams with a losing record against the East. Only two teams in the West with overall winning records, Minnesota and Denver, have losing records against the East.
  • — The Western Conference top eight right now is clearly separated into two bunches: one through five and six through eight. The Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Grizzlies and Warriors are all within four games of one another, with a three-game wedge between the bottom of that pile (the Warriors) and the Timberwolves, Nuggets and Rockets.

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