NBA Friday League Pass Picks: Minnesota Timberwolves at Indiana Pacers

Minnesota at Indiana

Time: 6 PM CST (NBA LP)

Spread: IND -8

Total: 216.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Indiana Pacers are hot, and it enters its Friday night matchup with the Minnesota T-Wolves as 8-point favorites according to live NBA odds at 5dimes. The over/under is set at 216.5, and the game will air on NBA League Pass at 6 PM (CST).

MINNESOTA news & notes:

The Minnesota Timberwolves enter tonight’s game with a 15-25 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. The Wolves dealt Teague for Allan Crabbe yesterday. It was mildly surprising to see the Wolves make the move so soon.

Instead, Saunders has now 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.

INDIANA news & notes:

The Indiana Pacers have been without star player Victor Oladipo for the entirety of the season thus far, but the Pacers have done more than float: it is 11 games above .500 at 26-15 and very much in command of making another playoff appearance, currently seeded No. 5 and just 1/2 a game behind No. 4 Toronto. The Pacers have won three-straight entering tongiht’s contest with the Timberwolves.

Indiana is not an explosive scoring team, ranking just No. 20 in scoring offense at 109.2 per game. But it has a staunch and stingy defense that surrenders just 106.1 per game. The Pacers also play excellent team ball, moving for the best shot, and helping the offense average 25.9 assists per game, which ranks sixth in the Association.

With Oladipo out this season, it has allowed for Malcolm Brogdon to take on a rather huge role, especially considering that in Milwaukee he was, at best, a third option. Brogdon is averaging 17.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 7.4 assists in 30.7 minutes per game. The biggest breakout has not even been him, but forward Domantas Sabonis, son of legend Arvydas. He is averaging 18.1 points, 13.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.4 blocks/steals per game. Combining with Myles Turner, the Pacers have offense and defense covered in its frontcourt rotation.

TJ Warren rounds it out at the 3-spot, and he has evolved into a very effective “Three and D” specialist. Warren tallies 17.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game in a second-most-high 32.3 minutes per game. The Pacers are deep enough and talented enough that even on its bench there are several key threats, including TJ McConnell and Aaron Holiday. The Pacers may be active at the trade deadline, but perhaps it should not be. There are really no glaring weaknesses, and with Victor Oladipo due to return soon the Pacers really could put on the afterburners.

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