By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If the NBA regular season ended today, the Minnesota Timberwolves would be playing Oklahoma City in round one of the playoffs.

At least this season, we are talking about the Timberwolves and the playoffs. There has been an injection of enthusiasm in this team, and there has been frustration watching them lose to bad teams.

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“I think we still have a lot of work to do,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Well put. The Timberwolves have played 61 games, three-fourths of the regular season and now have a week to ponder some veteran perspective.

“Recharge the batters, but don’t lose it. Because we’re going to have 21 games coming up after the break and you’re going to have to win a lot of games,” center Cole Aldrich said.

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They have reason to believe that young legs can help carry them. The emergence of Karl-Anthony Towns, and the grit and will of Jimmy Butler should be enough energy.

“We understand the grind of the season. We understand how long it is and how we need to continue to stay focused,” Towns said. “I don’t think mentally we’re fried. I think for us we just have to execute at a high level.”

But they have obstacles. Mainly, the conference they play in. That will make it difficult to get out of the first round, and certainly the second.

“The West is loaded and every night you’re going to be tested. There’s no easy way, that’s what makes it great,” Thibodeau said. “The challenge of it all.”

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In some respects, it’s already been a winning season. Add to that they’ve had 10 sell-outs, and it’s been very good at Target Center. But it could also be a short window. Butler’s contract is up after next season, and sources tell WCCO’s Mike Max that the Los Angeles Lakers are watching closely to see if they can bring him in as part of an All-Star package.

Mike Max