MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (17-54)
at DALLAS MAVERICKS (49-21)
Tip-off: Thursday, 8:30 p.m. EDT
Line: Dallas -15, Total: 209.5
The Mavs have struggled with some of the Western Conference’s powers of late. But on Thursday night, they’ll get to take out their frustrations on a Timberwolves team that’s looking more like a D-League contender. Basketball scores.
Minnesota will be without All-Star forward Kevin Love, who left Sunday’s game against the Kings with a groin injury. When Love left that game, the Wolves trailed Sacramento 45-40 with 3:18 left in the second quarter. Over the remaining 27:18, they were outscored 82-55, at home, by the only other Western Conference team with fewer than 20 wins. The Wolves turned the ball over 25 times in that game, the second time in four games that they’ve topped 25 TOs (they’ve lost four in a row SU, 1-3 ATS during that span). They’re on pace to become the first team since 2006-07 (the Knicks and Magic) to average more than 17 turnovers per game in a season (17.2).
Minnesota was already in rebuilding mode, and now it will be playing the unproven Anthony Randolph in Love’s spot. Since joining the Wolves at the trade deadline, Randolph has a plus-minus per 48 minutes of -15.7, worst on the team. Basketball odds.
Dallas has been far from sharp of late and is losing ground for the No. 2 seed in the West (currently 1.5 behind the Lakers). In the Mavs’ past nine games, they’re just 4-5 SU and 3-6 ATS, including losses to the Spurs, Blazers, Lakers and Hornets. They’ve had little trouble scoring of late, though. Since the All-Star break, they’re scoring 105.7 PPG and shooting 49.7% from the field. They got sharpshooting forward Peja Stojakovic back in the lineup on Sunday, and he responded by hitting 6-of-11 shots, including 5-of-8 threes, and scoring 17 points in just 19 minutes.
The Mavericks have had some defensive issues on the road, but they’ve clamped down on their past three opponents at home. The Lakers and high-scoring Spurs were both held below 100 points. And on Sunday, they held the Warriors to 73 points on 35.1% shooting.
Dallas has beaten Minnesota 18 times in 19 games SU, and there’s little doubt that the Timberwolves will be overmatched Thursday night. But there are a couple things working in their favor. They did score an upset win in Dallas in February last season, 117-108, a game in which they were 10-point underdogs. The Wolves are actually 8-3 ATS as double-digit underdogs this season (all road games). And Dallas starts a crucial six-game road trip on Saturday; if this game is out of hand in the third quarter, they’ll likely take their foot off the gas and allow Minnesota to pull within that monster point spread. Still, considering their lack of effort on defense in their last game, and the loss of their best (and hardest-working) player, I can’t trust these Wolves even getting 15. Basketball spreads.
After the Kings loss, Minnesota veteran big man Anthony Tolliver opined to reporters: “As part of being professionals, you have to learn how to play every game the same. Unfortunately, we don’t. A lot of guys on this team don’t bring it every night.” It’s late March, they’re 37 games under .500 and they’re on the road. I don’t think they’ll bring it tonight. My pick is Dallas. The FoxSheets are a bit torn on this one, but offer some info that goes against the Wolves:
MINNESOTA is 15-31 ATS (32.6%, -19.1 Units) versus good 3-point shooting teams – making >=36% of their attempts – 2nd half of the season over the last 3 seasons. The average score was MINNESOTA 99.4, OPPONENT 108.7 – (Rating = 1*).