Minnesota Timberwolves at Boston Celtics
Time: 6:30 PM CT (NBA TV)
Spread: BOS -8
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Boston Celtics have come down to earth a little after an unexpected 45-win season and playoff berth last year. While Boston is still a respectable 14-13, the C’s are just 7-7 at home where it will host the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Though Minnesota is vastly improved this season, it still may lack the defensive effort to slow Brad Stevens’ team. The betting total is set a little (rightfully though) high at 206. The game is the first of a double-header on NBA TV tonight.
Last season the Celtics acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas at the trade deadline and he has gone on to become a legit star. He is averaging 21.4 points per game and 6.6 assists, and thus far he has easily been Boston’s most productive player.
The Celtics’ strength is its backcourt, with Avery Bradley suddenly having become a viable offensive threat. The defensive-minded guard already played elite ball on that end of the court, but this season he is averaging a career high 15.4 points per game.
Boston’s perimeter defense stays very strong with one of the best 3-man defenders in the league in Jae “Don’t call me Bae” Crowder. The dreaded defender is averaging 12.9 points per game and Boston is all the better with his high energy and hustle perfectly accenting the high scoring backcourt.
Boston is weakest at the 4/5 spots, and unfortunately that is where the Wolves have rookie Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns has been one of the best rookies thus far in the season (probably the best, with Kristaps Porzingis being the other contender for such an honor). Minnesota is 11-16 after finishing with the league’s worst record a season ago, and the Wolves have won its past two games, knocking off the Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings.
Andrew Wiggins now has the look of a true superstar, and he’s built on the success he experienced last year as the 2015 Rookie of the Year.
The Canadian second-year forward is not wildly efficient, but that will likely come in time as he refines a mediocre jumpshot. Even so, the Timberwolves now have one of the best young cores in the league with Wiggins, Towns and second-year combo guard Zach LaVine being the top-3 scorers on the team.
Point guard Ricky Rubio may have disappointed throughout his career, and he still really cannot shoot the ball, but he is a very effective table setter for the athletes that surround him. Rubio hits just 33 percent from the floor yet somehow teams respect his offensive abilities enough for him still to dish out nine assists per game.
Towns is the only Timberwolves posting an outstanding PER (22.6) and he has been very efficient on the interior, shooting 53.5 percent from the floor. He also occasionally steps out behind the arc, and he has been very effective when he has done so, hitting 45.5 percent from three-point range.
Perhaps the biggest thing on Timberwolves’ fans and managements’ minds is whether or not the Wolves can keep this talented core together. All three of its top scorers are on rookie contracts, and the Timberwolves will have to spend max money to keep both Wiggins and Towns. Even tendering such a contract might not be enough if either player figures the chances of contention are better elsewhere.
The Wolves have not tasted much postseason glory since Kevin Garnett departed some seven years ago, but this year’s iteration of Timberwolves basketball is far better than in season’s past.
Good enough to knock off the Celtics tonight? Probably not, but covering the spread is very much in play for Minnesota.
The Timberwolves have great veteran leadership in Kevin Garnett (who has returned at his advanced age) and Tayshaun Prince. The makings are there of a playoff team, and with the Western Conference weakened from years’ past this could be Minnesota’s golden chance to return to the playoffs.