The incentive for the Timberwolves to move to Denver for the no. Picking up 6-seeded in the Western Conference play-offs and skipping the play-offs tournament together probably only increased on Tuesday night.
Because the team destined to win the no. To be 8-selected – the Los Angeles Clippers, which is the no. 7-seeded in the first playoff match will meet – got a big boost.
Paul George has returned to action against Utah after missing an elbow injury for the past three months. Rust? George had apparently never heard of it. In his first game back, he scored 34 points to lead the Clippers to a massive comeback victory after Los Angeles was as much as 25 points behind. George, who led the Clippers to last season’s Western Conference final, scored 20 points in the third quarter alone.
Certainly, the all-star’s return strikes fear in every Western Conference enemy. The Clippers just got a lot tougher. They were a high-level team through the first third of the season, with George managing the program. Three times Minnesota played Los Angeles with George present. Three times the Wolves were suffocated.
Sure, a lot has changed since then. Maybe Minnesota is now better equipped to handle George and Co. Yet the thought of now hosting the Clippers in a playoff round is not a positive one. Lose it, and the Wolves will be left to host either the Pelicans, Spurs or the downtrodden Lakers in a win-or-go-home game. Minnesota will be favored against any of those teams, but any one-game scenario is scary.
Denver will be in the same boat as it is overtaken by Minnesota to push the Nuggets into the playoffs. The last 10 days of the regular season are a sprint now in the West to reach the playoffs – and in the process avoid Paul George.
Both Malik Beasley and Jaden McDaniels are still missing time for the Timberwolves – they were out for Minnesota’s game Wednesday in Toronto – but Beasley may be nearing a return. Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said the hope is that Beasley, who is dealing with an ankle sprain, can return somewhere on this current road trip – either Friday in Denver in what will be the Wolves’ most important game of the year, or Sunday in Houston.
McDaniels has been released to resume court activities, Finch said, and he will be evaluated in a week. McDaniels is dealing with a high ankle sprain, but all reports of his progress have been positive.