NBA Western Conference Playoff Picks: Minnesota Timberwolves at Houston Rockets

Andrew Wiggins has to be looked at as something of a key to Minnesota’s upset chances in Game 5.

Minnesota at Houston- Game 5

Time: 8:30 PM CT (TNT)

Spread: HOU -12.5

Total: 216

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Minnesota Timberwolves did manage to get a Game 3 win in this series, but the Houston Rockets predictably bounced back to win Game 4 119-100. The Rockets can now close out the series on its home court, and NBA oddsmakers fully expect that to happen in setting the line a heavy 12.5-points in favor of James Harden and company in Game 5, which tips off at 8:30 PM (Central) on TNT. The over/under is set at 216 points by NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.

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The Rockets basically went back to its bread and butter in Game 4, and it was enough to overcome another strong game by Timberwolves’ superstar Karl-Anthony Towns. James Harden had 36 points, three assists, four boards and four steals while finishing +21 for his 33 minutes of court time. Backcourt mate Chris Paul was more aggressive looking for his shot, attempting 17 field goals (making nine) to finish with 25 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals. The Rockets shot just 43.5 percent from the field, but it connected on 16 made threes while turning the ball over only six times despite racking up 20 team assists.

Notably, Houston was out-rebounded by two, but the Timberwolves turned it over 16 times and also were absolutely lethargic in a decisive THIRD quarter, as the Rockets outscored Minny 50-20 in it. A 50-point quarter is almost unheard of, but the Rockets ranked No. 1 in offensive efficiency this season and there seems to be no ceiling on just how flaming hot Houston can get while its offense is really clicking. That should worry even Golden State because that kind of scoring clip can steal games even against the defending champs. But let us not get too far ahead of ourselves here.

The Rockets will look to Clint Capela again to slow down Towns, which probably ranks as the No. 1 key to winning Game 5. The Timberwolves shot just 30 of 69 from the field outside of Towns’ efficient 9 of 15, and Capela handily outplayed Towns the first two games in Houston. Minnesota also only got 14 points from Andrew Wiggins, whose scoring has fallen short of what the Timberwolves need against a high-powered Houston team.

One-time Chicago Bulls MVP Derrick Rose did have a nice “throwback” performance off the bench with 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting, but the Timberwolves cannot win with Jimmy Butler and Wiggins both scoring under 20 a game—at least not against a team like Houston.

Wiggins averaged 17.7 points per game during the regular season, but he has scored 20 or more just once in this series, not coincidentally at all that was the game the Timberwolves won. He is shooting just 40 percent from the arc in this series and really should be attempting more of them, but Houston’s wings are smartly closing out on Wiggins and forcing him to put the ball on the floor.

Minnesota should look to get their small forward at least 15 field goal attempts in this game, while also getting Towns off…or the result will be an end to its season. Wiggins was once projected to be a great two-way talent much like NBA legend Scottie Pippen, but he has yet to live up to that lofty billing, and now is probably as good a time as any to turn it on fully on both ends of the court. Towns cannot be counted upon to drop a monster game against a defensive stud like Capela, which puts the onus on both Wiggins and Butler to produce much more prodigiously if Minnesota is to hang with an offensively loaded club led by two of the best passers in the Association in Paul and Harden.

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