Apr 19, 2024 - Sports

Timberwolves prepare to run the Western Conference gauntlet. First up: Phoenix Suns

Anthony Edwards guards Kevin Durant

Anthony Edwards and the Wolves will go head-to-head with Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Timberwolves picked the wrong year to put together the second-best team in the franchise's 35-year history.

State of play: In their quest for a first-ever trip to the NBA Finals, the Wolves will need to navigate a Western Conference field stacked with seven teams that won 49 or more games — something that hasn't happened since 2015.

Why it matters: A long-suffering Wolves fan base finally has a real contender to cheer for this season, but their prospects of a deep run took a hit when they drew the Phoenix Suns in the first round.

Threat level: Despite being the lower-seeded team, the Suns are slight favorites to win the series. Phoenix dominated the Wolves in the regular season, winning all three games by an average margin of 16 points.

Staring at the Suns: Phoenix has a scary trio of superstars in Devin Booker, two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal. The Suns got healthy and hit their stride in the back half of the season.

  • Their small lineup is a tough matchup for the much larger Wolves.

The X-Factor: Karl-Anthony Towns. He came back from a meniscus injury to play in the last two games of the season and looked rusty. He has a tough assignment of chasing around smaller quicker Suns players.

  • If he can regain his mid-season form that earned him an All-Star selection, the Wolves can advance to the second round.

What we're watching: If the Wolves beat Phoenix, they will have to play either the reigning champion Denver Nuggets or LeBron James and the L.A. Lakers.

First game: 2:30pm Saturday on ESPN.

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