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Taking stock of Wolves playoff seeding after the loss at Denver

DENVER – The Timberwolves' playoff future gained some clarity after their 116-107 loss to Denver on Wednesday night.

They no longer control their destiny for the No. 1 seed in the conference, as Denver can now clinch it by winning its final two games.

But while that may have been a blow in the moment, the Wolves didn't seem too down in the locker room after losing Wednesday's game. Anthony Edwards said the team cared about it before the game, but didn't care as much after now that it lost. Mike Conley made the points that no matter what, a first-round matchup is going to be tough regardless of seed.

"I'd love to have the one seed, I'm not going to lie," Conley said. "But I also said that it don't matter what seed you got, you're going to play a dog in the first round. Doesn't mean getting the one seed, two seed or three seed is a better seed. We just want to play our best basketball, and this was a good test for us tonight and a good playoff level game and we'll move forward."

That seemed to be the tone in the Wolves' locker room afterward.

One player even told a teammate that getting the No. 3 seed wouldn't be the worst thing in the world because the Wolves would know their first-round opponent when the season ends Sunday, and that would allow them a full week to prepare. If their opponent is determined by a play-in tournament game as the No. 1 or 2 seed, it would be a shorter turnaround.

Rudy Gobert said regardless of where the Wolves finish, he was happy with how the team handled the regular season as they get ready to turn the page.

"NBA playoffs are going to be a whole new season," Gobert said. "I'm proud of the way we competed and I'm proud of the way we competed throughout the whole season, throughout adversity and now we're going to prepare for the playoffs."

There is still a lot to play for over the next two games, even if the path to the one seed got significantly harder. The Wolves can clinch the No. 2 seed by beating both Atlanta on Friday and Phoenix on Sunday. They will have the individual tiebreaker over Oklahoma City, which would extend out to their conference record.

If they win both games and Denver and Oklahoma City each lose a game, the Wolves would be the one seed. If they end up in a three-way tie with Denver and Oklahoma City, the Thunder would be one and the Wolves would be two, based on the teams' records against each other (the Thunder went 3-1 against Denver this season while the Wolves went 2-2 against both).

So after Wednesday, the one seed is more dream than reality, considering the Nuggets get to play both the lowly Spurs and Grizzlies.

But with the two seed, the Wolves would at least get to have home-court advantage in a potential second-round series against the Thunder.

The Wolves seemed to be turning some attention to that, as some players started to discuss tiebreaking scenarios with the various teams around them.

The Wolves are hopeful Karl-Anthony Towns can make a return this weekend as he ramps up for a playoff appearance, and they're also hopeful Towns would make a difference in a series with Denver down the line.

"It would be a lot easier for everyone because he's gonna get 25 points every night," Edwards said. "Like, easy. He walks in the gym with 25 points. So it makes it a lot easier for everybody. And another big body. He can guard [Nikola] Jokic. He's our best bet when it comes to guarding Jokic. So yeah, we need him."

The odds are a matchup with Denver now won't be until the conference finals, but the Wolves are going to have to survive two likely slugfests to get there regardless of seed.