Minnesota at L.A. Clippers
Time: 9:30 PM CT, ESPN
Spread: MIN -5.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been much improved in 2017. Their opponent, the L.A. Clippers, quite the inverse. The Wolves enter Staples Center as 5.5-point favorites in the second game of an ESPN Wednesday night double-header. Minnesota sits three games above .500, while the Clippers are just 8-14 this season and are losers of its past three games. The over/under is set at 211.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
One need search no further than the subtraction of Chris Paul when diagnosing the reason for the Clippers’ fall from grace this season. L.A. has a -2.6 point differential and is just 4-6 on its home court.
Despite new addition Danilo Gallinari plugging the Clippers as having the league’s best front court, its backcourt is among the worst. Lou Williams is still an effective scorer and Austin Rivers can get buckets, too, but it is Blake Griffin who leads the team in assists (5.1 per game). Griffin has had a strong season, but he has missed the Clippers’ past three games with a sprained ankle and he could miss up to two months. That cripples the Clippers. Not only is Griffin the leading scorer, but he functions as a point-forward and was expected to be the difference-maker in accounting for Paul’s lost production. Now, the Clippers turn to an amalgam of discarded scorers in attempt to even remain afloat in the tough Western Conference.
One can only wonder what is in store for this roster after this season. Implosion, presumably.
Minnesota, meanwhile, is building towards a meaningful future with two of the league’s brightest stars in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, alongside established veteran All-Star Jimmy Butler. Tom Thibodeau finally has the veteran leaders to lead his strong young core. Towns is averaging 19.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks pregame with a team-high PER Of 21.8. Butler has reduced his scoring load from a season ago with the pitiful Chicago Bulls, but is playing strong two-way basketball and still tallying 18 points per night. Wiggins has made meaningful strides as a playmaker and defender, with the cost that he is averaging less points than last season, but the Wolves are a better more well-rounded team this season.
Credit some of that to unheralded additions Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. Gibson has relegated the once-promising Gorgui Dieng to the bench, while Teague has seamlessly replaced Ricky Rubio at the point guard position. Jamal Crawford is not seeing a lot of minutes (17 per game), but is still a viable scorer off the bench and he can get hot at any time. The Wolves have sufficient depth and leadership to finally cash in on its potential, and developing consistency on both ends of the court is next on Thibodeau’s checklist for his rising Wolves.