NBA scores 2017: Timberwolves are looking as good as we thought they could be

Minnesota has won seven of their last 10 games, and the playoffs are totally out of the picture.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are becoming the team we thought they could be, and it’s not happening gradually. In their last four games, they’ve pounded the Jazz by 27, lost to San Antonio in overtime, beat the Clippers by 16, and on Friday, knocked off the Warriors. They’ve won seven of their last 10 games, and this quick turnaround into legitimacy has them hanging onto playoff hopes.

The win against Golden State came down to Stephen Curry missing a final pull-up two with seconds left on the clock, and the Timberwolves eventually prevailed 103-102 on a bizarre game-ending jump ball and time expiring harmlessly. The Warriors are in a weird place, finishing a brutal travel schedule and missing Kevin Durant, but they’re still the Warriors. And the Timberwolves are still the Timberwolves, which until recently meant a young team who hadn’t tapped into their potential.

They’re doing that. The Timberwolves have the third-best net rating (plus-9.2) since the All-Star break, and they’re seeing Karl-Anthony Towns and Ricky Rubio’s best stretch of basketball arguably all season. Towns is averaging 27 points and 16 rebounds along with 62 percent shooting in the seven games, and is beginning to realize the little plays that can help the Timberwolves win. Rubio, who survived prolific trade talks at the deadline, has rewarded Minnesota by averaging more than 11 assists per game.

The Timberwolves’ secret is that they may have always been this good, and were just failing to win games. Before the All-Star break, Minnesota’s net rating was minus-0.8, which put them in the top half of the league despite an awful 22-35 record. They had a weird thing early in the season where they would destroy teams for most of a game, but collapse in third quarters. Finally, despite losing Zach LaVine for the year, Minnesota is learning how to follow through and actually win games consistently.

Those playoff hopes might be a little optimistic — despite playing better, Minnesota is still 2.5 games back of Denver in the No. 8 seed. They’ll have to beat out the red hot Mavericks and the surging Trail Blazers, both who made key trades for centers at the deadline. The Nuggets aren’t necessarily falling off, either, beating the Celtics on Friday. But the Timberwolves are finally realizing their potential, and that’s a dangerous thing for the league to realize headed into the future — never mind how this season ends.

Don’t look now, but the Mavericks are really good

The Mavericks have won 17 of their last 26 games dating back to Jan. 12, which happens to be the game they inserted Seth Curry into the starting lineup. Curry is a big reason for the play — he’s averaging nearly 17 points on 53 percent shooting from the field and 48 percent behind the arc, showing all the confidence and bravado we’ve come to except from a Curry with a game that isn’t as far behind as you might think.

When Dallas started the year 4-17, injuries and a brutal schedule played a huge role. They’re healthy now, feasting on lower competition but beating good teams, too. (They knocked off San Antonio and Cleveland on back-to-back nights, after all.)

Dallas stole Nerlens Noel from Philadelphia for next to nothing, and they have finished tight games with five players aged 26 or under. The team’s playing for the future, but as much as the talent infusion of a lottery pick would be helpful, they aren’t ruling out a playoffs run. Next season, they certainly plan on it — as a parting gift to Dirk Nowitzki during what could potentially be his final season — and if the timeline advances there a little sooner, it’s hard to complain, if for no other reason than Dirk’s sake.

The terribly sad story of the Chicago Bulls, as told in three tweets

GarPax Gar Forman and John Paxson, the two front office executives in charge of Chicago’s front office. It may very well be time.

Stephen Curry passed Dell in all-time career points in 8 fewer seasons

There’s the shot that did it.

Friday’s best play

Holy.

Friday’s final scores

Hornets 121, Magic 81 (At the Hive recap | Orlando Pinstriped Post recap)

Rockets 115, Bulls 94 (The Dream Shake recap | Blog a Bull recap)

Bucks 99, Pacers 85 (Brew Hoop recap | Indy Cornrows recap)

Timberwolves 103, Warriors 102 (Canis Hoopus recap | Golden State of Mind recap)

Hawks 105, Raptors 99 (Peachtree Hoops recap | Raptors HQ recap)

Nuggets 119, Celtics 99 (Denver Stiffs recap | Celtics Blog recap)

Mavericks 105, Nets 96 (Mavs Moneyball recap | Nets Daily recap)

Wizards 130, Kings 122 (Bullets Forever recap | Sactown Royalty recap)

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