Due to the lockout-compressed schedule, the NBA is playing a full slate of regular-season games in April for one of the only times in its history. In a typical year, we'd be gearing up for the playoffs right now, with only a half-month of April contests. But even with that usual schedule, it stands to reason that a team, no matter how bad, would win a game in April at least once every two years. Teams just don't lose that much, no matter how bad they are.
That makes the Minnesota Timberwolves streak of three seasons with no April wins a notable curiosity. From April 9, 2009 to April 18, 2012, the Wolves won a whopping zero games in the month. That all changed Thursday night, when they defeated the Detroit Pistons 91-80. It was particularly special for guard Wayne Ellington, who hadn't won an NBA game in April during his three seasons with Minnesota. From Ray Richardson for the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
"The last time I won a game in April was in 2009, when I won a national championship in Detroit with North Carolina," Ellington said after the Wolves snapped an 11-game losing streak and won their first game in April since a 105-97 victory at Golden State on April 8, 2009. "Unbelievable."
The Wolves (26-38) had lost 27 consecutive games in April, a statistic that was picking up steam around the league and giving the Wolves more unflattering publicity. The smiles on the faces of Wolves players after the game reflected how much the win meant to the team, which has won only five games since losing Ricky Rubio for the season with a knee injury on March 9.
For Ellington in particular, the win gave him a chance to recall some of the better days in his basketball career. He was the starting shooting guard for North Carolina in the Tar Heels' 89-72 victory over Michigan State in the 2009 NCAA national championship, a game played on April 6 at Ford Field in downtown Detroit.
There are many reasons for Minnesota's streak, including the vagaries of teams not playing their best players in April (or tanking, if you want to call it that) and the fact that the Wolves been really bad for a really long time. That said, it's hard to imagine any team going so long without an April win, if only because some random occurrence likely would have helped them to a victory. That's especially true of a franchise that employs Kevin Love.
So congratulations to coach Rick Adelman and his team on their success. Maybe next season they can even win an April playoff game. Given the strides they've made this year, it's a real possibility.