For much of the season, the Portland Trail Blazers credibly could have been favored over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota spent much of the year without star big man Karl-Anthony Towns, and up until February, the Blazers looked like a legitimate playoff contender.
But things have changed in the past two months. The Timberwolves got Towns back recently, and with Anthony Edwards playing All-Star-caliber basketball and Mike Conley helping to reinvigorate Rudy Gobert, they have been rounding into form as a stealth Western Conference contender. Portland, meanwhile, has fallen off due to some financially-driven deadline deals and late-season injuries. As such, Minnesota entered Sunday's game against Portland as an absolutely enormous 19.5-point favorite. According to The Action Network, no favorite entering Sunday of 19 or more points had lost a game outright since at least 1995, which is as far back as reliable data can be found.
Well, that streak has officially been snapped. Despite leading by as many as 12 points, the Timberwolves ultimately fell, 107-105, in what is now the greatest regular-season upset in NBA history. The prior record-holders were the Milwaukee Bucks, who lost as 18.5-point favorites to the Brooklyn Nets in the Orlando bubble in the summer of 2020. Portland's leading scorer was the 19-year-old Shaedon Sharpe, who poured in 27 points in the victory. Teammates Skylar Mays made just his seventh career start in the NBA, and Trendon Watford wasn't far ahead at 19. Backup guard Shaq Harrison signed with the Blazers two days ago.
In fairness to Minnesota, the team has been plagued with an illness for the past few games. Edwards and Austin Rivers were both listed on the injury report with that illness, and when the Wolves played the Lakers on Friday, six of their players were deemed ill.
Sunday's game represented a golden opportunity for Minnesota to pick up crucial ground in the crowded Western Conference playoff standings. However, at 39-40, they fell to the No. 9 seed. They are now tied with the No. 10 seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in the loss column, and while they have one fairly easy game against the San Antonio Spurs left, their other two come against the Brooklyn Nets and New Orleans Pelicans. Both will be touch victories against teams playing for positioning themselves.
If Minnesota does fall to an undesirable portion of the standings, the Timberwolves will look back on this game with regret. Very few teams ever enter games as the sort of favorites they were on Sunday. Winning such a game is always critical, but especially in the crowded middle-of-the pack West this season.