Eliminated Minnesota Timberwolves Couldn’t Buck History

Eliminated Minnesota Timberwolves Couldn’t Buck History article feature image
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David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Anthony Edwards #5 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on during against the Dallas Mavericks during Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Minnesota Timberwolves knocked out the defending champion Denver Nuggets to reach the Western Conference Finals. However, they’re now joining Nikola Jokić and company in Cancún after the Dallas Mavericks downed them Thursday night, 124-103, to clinch the 4-1 series win.

So, just how common is it for a team to be eliminated one round after knocking out the defending champs prior to the NBA Finals?

History says it’s been a 50/50 proposition.

The Mavericks-Timberwolves series marked the 14th series since 2000 involving a team that eliminated the defending champion prior to playing for the title. Six have now lost the next series, while four won only one series and four at least two.

However, even if Minnesota had won, they would have had to buck history in order to hoist the Larry O’Brien Chmapionship Trophy. Only two teams since 2000 won the title after eliminating the reigning champs: the 2011 Mavericks and 2003 San Antonio Spurs.

It also shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Minnesota wasn’t able to force a Game 6. This was the 156th time in NBA history in which a team fell into a 3-0 series hole. Only 11 of the first 155 teams forced a Game 6. Of those, only five subsequently forced a Game 7. As a result, the Timberwolves were listed between +400 and +425 to win the series even though they were -4.5 to win Game 5.

Minnesota didn't do itself any favors this postseason with it's dismal performance at Target Center. The Timberwolves lost five games at home, becoming only the sixth team in NBA history to lose that many games at home not including the finals.

Add it all up and Minnesota had a tough task reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history after dispatching the defending champion Nuggets. Their eyes now turn to the 2024-25 season, where they currently have the third-best odds to win it all according to FanDuel (+900) behind the Celtics (+350) and Nuggets (+850).

Evan Abrams contributed research for this article.

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