NBA Pick: Minnesota Timberwolves visit OKC Thunder
Minnesota Timberwolves (19-21, 21-19 ATS) vs. OKC Thunder (25-14, 22-17 ATS)
When: Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 – 8:00 pm ET
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena – Oklahoma City, OK
By: Kyle Cash, @Philsphan330, NBA Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MIN +8/OKC -8
Last Night in the NBA
Don’t call it a comeback – I’ve been here for months. Giving out winners and occasionally guessing the exact score. With the amount of basketball predictions I’ve successfully doled out over the last couple of weeks, I look forward to you guys sliding into my Twitter DMs in March to ask my opinion on every single first round matchup in the NCAA tournament. Seriously – do it. I want more fans.
While the Bucks were busy making my dreams become reality, the rest of the NBA was hard at work. Harden and AD continued to bolster their MVP resumes, the Celtics and Spurs dominated in sneakily tough match-ups, and my #ManCrushMonday Bogdan Bogdanovic came pretty close to his first career triple-double. I think that if he had a better haircut, he would be my favorite non-Sixer.
With college football in the rearview mirror and college basketball still a few weeks away from really heating up, let’s turn our attention to a juicy 8-game NBA slate to see if we can make some money. The T-Wolves are visiting the OKC Thunder in their first game in the post-Thibodeau era. Russ and co. are currently favored by 8-points at home with the total set to a solid 224.5 points. Yassss, queen!
Bad Times in Minnesota
Between the Eagles ostensibly taking the Vikings spot in the playoffs, the Minnesota Timberwolves taking a nosedive and the temperature plummeting towards the teens as winter roars on, it’s probably not a great time to be a Minnesotan. With Thibs out the door, Minnesota is either going to a) rally under a new coach using a style of basketball more conducive to their 23-year old franchise center with rare talents or b) cave in on themselves entirely and take a one-way road to the NBA Draft Lottery. Win-win for Minnesota, if you ask me. Playoffs experience or a puncher’s chance in the Zion sweepstakes? Sign me up.
We’ll get a chance to see which door the T-Wolves are going to walk through as they take on the Thunder on Tuesday night. We just saw this match-up on December 23rd with the Wolves stealing a W behind Andrew Wiggins’ 30-point performance. Even casual NBA fans can tell you that another big game out of Andrew Wiggins is almost entirely out of the question, and the T-Wolves will need to find another way to get some points on the board.
Despite Thibs’ reputation as a defensive genius, the Wolves currently sit at 17th in Defensive Rating, and we’ll see if interim coach Ryan Saunders can improve upon that. Towns was a solid defensive center in college and Wiggins has all of the tools, and if those two can bear down on defense alongside Taj and Covington, the T-Wolves might actually be able to make some noise. The Thunder are a below average offensive unit, and with Russ’ shooting splits currently in the toilet, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Minnesota have some success against them on that end. If not, the T-Wolves are going to need to continue to ride KAT as a workhorse, and see if he can continue his torrid streak of outstanding play. While being defended by Steven Adams, that may be too tall of a task for the young star.
Thunder Road to the Playoffs
Oy, vey. Just when I thought that Westbrook was about to turn the corner, he has another good-on-paper-bad-if-you-watched-it performance and the Thunder got killed at home at the hand of the Wiz. With Paul George’s MVP-caliber season and Westbrook’s sudden attentiveness to the defensive end, this should be a team that challenges for the Western Conference Iron Throne. But right now, the only way that Russell Westbrook’s shooting is going to improve is if he wargs into Stephen Curry’s body during the playoffs. If he can’t improve his efficiency, this thing is over before it even begins. When you play the Game of Zones, you either win or you shoot 3-20 from the field and lose.
Luckily for the Thunder, they are catching a T-Wolves team without one of their best players: Derrick Rose. I’m sorry I doubted you, Derrick! While D-Rose recovers from his injuries, Westbrook is going to (or should) feast on a backcourt of washed-up Jeff Teague and baby-sized Tyus Jones. This is maybe the hottest take of my life, so brace yourselves: I think Russ is going to have a triple-double in this game. Big call – I know. A good game from Andrew Wiggins is unlikely to come around again until the next Olympics, and the Thunder might finally be able to flex their offensive muscles for once and pile on the points. With Steven Adams’ Aquaman about to pass $1 billion in the box office, he should be properly motivated to continue his dominance and drown Karl-Anthony Towns in the Hefner Lake. Remember: KAT’s hate water.
All kidding aside, I am nowhere near as confident on this game as I was last night. The Thunder have been, at times, a great team this year, and they’ve shown a knack for dispatching inferior teams. But a loss to the Wizards? Are you kidding me, Thunder? I trusted you! A lot of NBA-haters check in on the league come June and see the Warriors v. Lebron Part IV and assume that the entire season was a foregone conclusion. But these games have as much volatility as any of the other Big Four sports teams, and it’s a very tough sport to handicap night after night. It’s even harder to cohesively filibuster as you tirelessly scan through statistics on Basketball-Reference in order to make your Best Bet pick. Trust me – I know from experience. In the end, let’s just do what we always do and side with Russell Westbrook. I’ve found that I can live with myself more if he disappoints me than if I go against him and he destroys my hopes and dreams. Let’s lay the points and hope we can continue this streak through the weekend so we can take Big Dick Nick +8.
Final Score Prediction: OKC Thunder 120 – Minnesota Timberwolves 110