Minnesota at Portland
Time: 900 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: POR -6.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Minnesota Timberwolves have dropped five-straight games and now travel to face the hot Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland has won seven of its past 10, appearing to be a legitimate playoff team since acquiring Josef Nurkic (and a first round pick) at the trade deadline at the cost of Mason Plumlee.
Initially billed a bit of a head-scratching trade, the focus of Portland’s offense has properly shifted to its backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. The result has been victories. Portland enters the game as 6.5 point favorites with the over/under set at 212.5—and the game will air at 9 PM (CT) on NBA League Pass.
Portland still must keep winning to reach the postseason, however. It still trails No. 8 Denver by 1.5 games, and Denver is playing good ball too as it has won 7 of its last 10, as well. Even so, Portland ostensibly is the more talented team with Lillard and McCollum being one of the league’s best young backcourts. Lillard has been going absolutely nuts since yet another All-Star snub in a Western Conference loaded with guards. He’s averaging 26.9 points and 5.8 assists per game while posting a PER Of 23.8.
The respect he craves may come in the form of giving Golden State a tough first round opponent, though any chances of knocking off the Dubs will obviously range in the mega-long shot range of bets. That is to say, Portland is an improved team with Nurkic, and a legitimate playoff caliber club, but still can unlikely draw higher than that No. 8 seed—which means a collision with the Warriors. It is probably better than a late lotto pick, in terms of keeping excitement high among the Blazers’ faithful.
Lillard has been even more impressive over his past 10 games: 32 points and 4.9 assists per game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor. He has scored 36 points per game over his past three, including a 49-point eruption in a 115-104 win over the Miami Heat on Mar 19. He shot 14 of 21 including 9 of 12 from three, while also knocking down all 12 of his free throws and dishing out five assists. Surely, a superstar like Lillard has to give Portland the edge over Denver in this chase, notwithstanding that Nuggets 5-man Nikola Jokic is emerging as something of a superstar in his own right.
Minnesota meanwhile hit full-on tank as soon as it lost starting 2-guard Zach LaVine for the season. The Wolves were already distant long-shots to make the postseason anyway, only further illustrating this team’s need for some veteran leadership.
Lost in the retirement of legend Kevin Garnett, was that the Timberwolves essentially lost a player-coach, while also suffering the unnoticed loss of fellow veteran Tayshaun Prince.
Minnesota is a team with few older players, with point guard Ricky Rubio responsible for being the team’s elder statesman, and not that experienced himself, really. The next step for the Timberwolves this offseason will be to add a “defensive quarterback” and some veteran leadership. Its defense has been bad, but there are few excuses with a head coach known for defensive scheming and several very good individual defenders.
The issues mostly stem from poor communication leading to botched defensive rotations and having one good communicator on the floor alleviates a lot of that. Sound a bit like someone the Wolves had? They miss you more than most are willing to admit, KG. The T-Wolves will again look the lottery, and also must begin planning its team around re-signing the multitude of young talents that will be highly coveted upon the expiration of their respective rookie contracts. Good luck, Minny!