San Antonio at Minnesota
Time: 8:30 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: SAS -5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Minnesota Timberwolves are 28-41 and trail the No.8 Denver Nuggets by 4.5 games, drifting closer and closer to eliminating itself from playoff contention on the tails of a three-game losing streak. The Wolves will host the No. 2 team in the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs, as 5-point underdogs.
Minnesota has gone 18-18 at home this season and is 16-24 against fellow Western Conference foes. The game will air as the second of a double header on ESPN at 8:30 PM (CT).
Minnesota was already dealt a heavy blow when it lost its starting shooting guard Zach LaVine for the season. The injury also held the high flyer out of what turned out to be a very mediocre dunk contest. LaVine’s absence has brought out the best in Ricky Rubio, however. Rubio has been absolutely stellar without LaVine in the line, averaging 16 points, 10.8 assists and 1.7 steals over his past 10 games while shooting 48.3 percent from the field (over 7 percent higher than his season average).
Rubio had 22 points and 19 assists in a 119-104 win over the Washington Wizards on Mar 13, and he has totaled double-digit assists in two of the Wolves’ last five games. The seeming urge and clamor to deal Rubio may be dying down, at least it would be if Minnesota could notch more victories.
Even with the Wolves disappointing in some respects this year, the future is very bright with Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins still in the fold, healthy and leading the way. Eventually, Minnesota will need to round out its lineup with some veterans and leaders, and in doing so, hopefully improve its abysmal team defense. Despite having many good individual defenders the Minnesota Timberwolves do not defend well as a team, and that is largely what has held them back in what was supposed to (according to many analysts, anyway) be something of a breakout season.
It is perhaps all the more surprising given the defensive talents of coach Tom Thibodeau, who has been underwhelming as the coach of a team with so many young blue chip prospects. The real issue will be to see whether Minnesota can retain its talent when the rookie contract expires, but in the spirit of not getting ahead of ourselves, tonight should be a good look at Towns against one of the best defensive frontcourts in the league.
San Antonio is 27-9 on the road this season and still trying to close in on the Golden State Warriors, trailing the No. 1 seeded Dubs by just 2.5 games with about a dozen games remaining on teams’ schedules league-wide. The Spurs have lost two of its past three games, but this is the juncture of the year at which both Gregg Popovich and Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr have begun resting their respective superstars. Will the No. 1 seed become something of a non-contest between two teams simply trying to rest up and be healthy for the postseason? It seems even likely that is the case, at this juncture.
The Spurs have just four remaining road games this season following tonight’s matchup, with the other eight games all being home games for San Antonio. Ideally, that should drive some playoff momentum, but there is not telling whether Pop will rest his guys or not on a night-to-night basis. If this were fantasy sports, we would be pulling our hair out: But it’s not.
The Spurs should be able to notch an easy victory tonight against the Wolves, notwithstanding that Minnesota has been playing some pretty good ball without LaVine. This is still a young team riding a losing streak against a veteran club that is a legitimate contender.