Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau

Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports

Bernstein: Tom Thibodeau's Wolves Fighting To Hang On

Minnesota will play Denver in a winner-goes-to-the-playoffs game Wednesday.

Dan Bernstein
April 10, 2018 - 8:44 am

By Dan Bernstein--
670TheScore.com senior columnist

(670 The Score) Basketball as an inexorable march to something or somewhere is how it is for certain coaches, a grim and humorless exercise of seeing what's left at the end and who's still able to get up and down the floor. There's only the next possession to get a basket or get a stop, until there are no more to play.

And it's down to a single remaining game to determine if the Minnesota Timberwolves can return to the NBA playoffs after a 14-year drought that's the longest such streak in the league. Tom Thibodeau's team is just .500 since the All-Star break and went 8-9 while Jimmy Butler was out with a meniscus tear.

They and the Nuggets are 46-35 and meet for a regular-season Game 82 on Wednesday evening that determines who gets to be clobbered in the first round.

True to form, Thibodeau has ridden his best horses hard all year. Butler is fifth in the league in minutes per game, Andrew Wiggins is 10th and Karl-Anthony Towns is 14th. Taj Gibson is 13th in total minutes at 2,691 despite being nearly 33 years old, and he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Friday that "we're all running on fumes" after Butler returned to help them beat the Lakers in Los Angeles. Gibson hurt his neck in that game and had to leave a win over Grizzlies on Monday due to continued soreness. He will be a gametime decision for the finale.

The Wolves are enduring local criticism for cutting it this close, with critics citing six losses to the NBA's four worst teams. Laying such eggs repeatedly has intensified the pressure on them at this point to at least have something to show for this year's grind, even if there remains no clear path to genuine contention.

It's another full Thibodeau experience playing out as we well know it, just a bit farther north. He has squeezed everything he can from his roster after making a splashy trade to accelerate winning, and he's still bellowing at them at every turn to do just enough to keep it all going toward wherever he sees them heading.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and McKnight Show” in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​