Portland at Minnesota
Time: 7 PM CST (NBA LP)
Spread: POR -1.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Minnesota Timberwolves host the Portland Trail Blazers at 7 PM CST Thursday on NBA League Pass. Minnesota is 1.5-point underdogs on its homecourt, with the over/under set at 224.5 points according to oddsmakers at 5dimes.
PORTLAND news & notes:
Portland has won just four of its last 10 games, and at 16-22 it trails the San Antonio Spurs by one game for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.
Carmelo Anthony has been the headliner for news in Portland, and the free-agent acquisition seems to be nothing but good for the Blazers’ rotation. Melo is averaging 16.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game in 32 minutes a night through his first 23 games (all of which he has started). It has pushed Mario Hezonja back out of the starting lineup, where he was having his struggles. The Blazers also seemed to legitimately have added a true No. 3 option behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who combine to average 48.8 points and 11.4 assists per game in the backcourt.
The Blazers are arguably a better team on paper this year than last, but injuries have prevented it all from fully translating. Hassan Whiteside is something of an upgrade over the injured Jusef Nurkic, but losing Zach Collins to injury was a bit of a blow to a team thin on frontcourt depth. Rodney Hood has been a pleasant surprise as a second-unit scorer, though, with his 50.6 percent shooting and 11 points per game. The Blazers simply need a healthy roster before it can build the chemistry and momentum that it really should.
MINNESOTA news & notes:
The Minnesota Timberwolves enter tonight’s game with a 14-22 mark, though it is still in last place in the Northwest Division and still without star big man Karl-Anthony Towns.
Part of the problem for the T -Wolves is a lot of roster instability. Despite having just one true point guard on its roster, in Jeff Teague, head coach Ryan Saunders has gone away from using Teague as much as logic would dictate he should be. Instead, Saunders has turned to second-year 2-guard Josh Okogie and rookie swingman Jarrett Culver to handle most of the point duties. Andrew Wiggins, too, has seen an increase in his playmaking. But the overall results of this simply have not been good, Minnesota is struggling to get any of its scorers going other than Karl-Anthony Towns and Wiggins.
Towns averages 26.5 points, 11.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.3 blocks/steals per game, while posting the best PER of any Wolf at 28.41. Gorgui Dieng has been filling in for Towns and playing amazing. He could eventually be trade bait, though Dieng is signed for over $17 million through next season. He figures to at least have earned his way into the rotation with the way he has played.
Wiggins is having a career year and breaking out, but his 24.1 points and 5.4 rebounds still have not been enough. Teague check-in as the No. 3 scorer, but he still sees under 30 minutes per game, and the Wolves have to get more offense out of both Okogie and Culver, who combine to average just about 17.2 points per game. Ideally, that figure should be over 20. Minnesota still averages 111.8 points per game, but it has the league’s 4th-worst defense which allows opponents 114.4 points per game. Over the last 10 games, though, Minnesota has posted a defensive rating of roughly 95, which is far better. It could be that Dieng is part of the reason, but it seems by the eye test to be a very collective effort.
It does not seem as though Minnesota is playing to its true potential, because, on paper, this roster seems to spell .500, but the Wolves are a good bit below that as the midway point of the season nears.