The Minnesota Timberwolves know their late-season push to the top of the Western Conference won’t mean a thing if they don’t hold on to the lofty position.
They’ll begin their quest to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs when they visit the Golden State Warriors—a team they’ve already lost to twice this season.
The Timberwolves took a huge step toward earning the top seed in the West with Thursday’s 94-86 win over the Sacramento Kings. The victory moved Minnesota a half-game ahead of Sacramento for the top spot, and the Timberwolves hold the season series tiebreaker over the Kings.
“It was a very important game, the most important game of the year,” Minnesota forward Latrell Sprewell said. “We can’t have a letdown. We have three games remaining and we have to win them.”
Minnesota, which owns the best road record in the West at 25-14, has won six in a row overall to take a 1 1/2 -game lead over defending NBA champion San Antonio in the Midwest Division.
“All this did tonight is put us in position to take care of ourselves,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said.
Kevin Garnett, a strong candidate for MVP honors, had 24 points and 17 rebounds and Sam Cassell led Minnesota with 29 points Thursday. The Timberwolves will host Utah on Monday and visit Memphis on Wednesday in its regular-season finale.
The Timberwolves have never won a playoff series, and last season was the first time they had home-court advantage for the opening round. However, they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
Eliminated from playoff contention for an 11th consecutive season, the Warriors are finishing strong, having won 10 of their last 13 games. On Wednesday, Cliff Robinson scored 23 points, but Golden State had its two-game win streak snapped with an 87-81 loss at Portland.
“There’s still a lot of self-pride on this team,” Warriors guard Speedy Claxton said. “We don’t want to just roll over and let everybody beat us. We’re still going to come out and play hard. The best team will win.”