The Wolves are off to their best start (3-1) since the 2001-2002 season after their complete dismantling of the Orlando Magic 90-75 Wednesday night. Without Love and Rubio the team can't play below 500 and expect to be in playoff position.
What is the Number:
All the talking heads have said if the team can stay above water until Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love return, they will have a decent shot at the playoffs. No one has put a number to the equation. Love will miss around the first 20 games and Rubio a little more. If the team has 12-15 wins when the Spaniard returns, the Wolves will be in good shape. The good news early is they already have three in four games.
20 games places us on December 15th against Dallas. If the team is at worst 12-8, they will be in okay shape with Rubio returning somewhere near Christmas 10 days later. The Wolves play five games between December 15th and December 26th including back to back at Orlando then Miami.
Our own Mike Durkin pulled this gem of a stat. In 2009, Oklahoma City, Portland and San Antonio tied for the six through eight seeds with a 50-32 record a 12-8 clip every 20 games. In 2010, New Orleans and Memphis were both 46-36 and got in, but last year in a shortened season no team made the playoffs less than six games above 500.
As we scour the schedule of the next 16 games, here is how it breaks down:
Home games against Indiana, Charlotte, Golden State, Denver (twice), Milwaukee and Cleveland.
Road games against Chicago, Dallas, Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, LA Clippers, Philadelphia, Boston and New Orleans.
If the team best case goes 5-2 at home (Indiana, Charlotte, Golden State, Denver (once) and either Milwaukee or Cleveland), they would be 8-3. If that scenario plays out they would need four wins on the road to get to 12 wins.
They play Golden State on the back of a two game stretch and Sacramento two nights later. Those are two winnable games that the team should get. Chicago is a road game after a home game where the Wolves are already 0-1 on the season. The Mavs are 3-0 at home. Portland is a possible win, but the Clippers will be tough on the final game of the road trip. Philadelphia is a winnable game, but a motivated KG at Boston on a back to back won't be easy. Which leaves us with New Orleans which should be a win.
If they can go 4-5 on the road (which is possible) they will have their 12 wins.