How Karl-Anthony Towns' torn meniscus impacts the OKC Thunder

Minnesota Timberwolves v Oklahoma City Thunder
Minnesota Timberwolves v Oklahoma City Thunder / Joshua Gateley/GettyImages

For virtually the entire 2023-24 campaign the OKC Thunder have been battling the Minnesota Timberwolves for the top spot in the NBA's Western Conference standings. Currently, the Wolves hold claim to first place at 44-19, followed by the Thunder who place second in the West at 43-19.

However, this season-long battle could be decided not by the team's play, but by an unfortunate injury to Wolves star Karl-Anthony Towns, who recently sustained a torn meniscus in his left knee.

This is a big blow for Minnesota as Towns has played in 60 of the club's 63 games this season. In the small sample size of three games the All-Star missed, they won the contests by 12, nine, and two points, respectively. Also in said outings, two were against current playoff teams in the Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers, and the other game was against the scrappy San Antonio Spurs.

How could the Karl-Anthony Towns injury help the Thunder?

Because the Thunder and Wolves split their season series at two games apiece neither, team holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. Because they're both in the same division, unless one of the two outright takes the top spot, the team with a higher winning percentage against teams in Northwest will be a factor, then the division winner wins the tiebreaker, should the two teams finish with the same record.

The Thunder are currently 11-4 in division play and have one final division game remaining on March 20 in a matchup against the Utah Jazz. Minnesota, on the other hand, has five divisional games remaining, with two coming against the Jazz and three versus the Denver Nuggets.

The Wolves' current division record is 9-2.

Oklahoma City does control their own destiny concerning another division rival in the Nuggets, because they possess both the head-to-head tiebreaker and Denver's current division record is 5-5. Therefore, if the Thunder win their final division game later this month, they will eliminate the Nuggets from being crowned Northwest Champions, and their only opponent for the title will be the Wolves.

The Wolves could continue to roll without Towns, or they could slide in the standings. Regardless, the race for seeding in the West is still on pace to be one of the most exciting conclusions in recent years, and it is both refreshing and exciting for the Thunder to be back in the mix.