Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Line: Minnesota -5.5
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
When: Friday, 4/14 at 9:30 p.m. ET
The No. 10 seed Oklahoma City Thunder are one win away from punching their spot in the NBA playoffs following their upset win over No. 9 seed New Orleans on Wednesday.
Standing in their way is No. 8 seed Minnesota, which blew a 15-point lead in a loss to the Lakers on Tuesday. The Timberwolves did cover the 8.5-point spread though, covering for the fourth consecutive game.
They opened as 4.5-point favorites on Wednesday night, but the early betting action pushed that spread to -5.5 where it remained as of this morning. Tonight’s total opened at 228.5, went down to 227.5 and has now popped back up to 228.5.
Minnesota won three out of four head-to-head meetings between these teams in the regular season, splitting wins against the spread. The most recent meeting came in December when Karl-Anthony Towns was sidelined due to an injury. Minnesota has won and covered the spread in six of its last 10 games since he returned.
The Timberwolves have stepped up defensively, allowing 112.6 points per game in their final nine games of the regular season. They held the Lakers to just 108 points in Tuesday’s play-in game, but they were unable to hold onto their 15-point lead after scoring seven points in the final 11 minutes.
“We expected to win this game,” veteran guard Mike Conley said. “It’s disappointing to lose. We had a lead and let it slip. This should be a different postgame speech…We’ve just got to be mentally and physically more engaged at the end, and we’ve got a couple of days to work on it.”
Towns, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds, had to sit for a large chunk of the fourth quarter after picking up his fifth foul, and Anthony Edwards scored just nine points for Minnesota. The Timberwolves played without big man Rudy Gobert after he was suspended for punching teammate Kyle Anderson in the regular-season finale. While his suspension is up, he is ‘questionable’ to play in this game due to back spasms.
Edwards leads Minnesota with 24.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game, while Towns is averaging 20.8 points and 8.1 rebounds. Gobert is adding 13.4 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, so his status is something to keep an eye on.
Oklahoma City was one of the most profitable teams in the NBA this season, going 46-34-3 ATS, including a 20-11-3 ATS mark as road underdogs. The Thunder have covered in three straight games after going winless ATS in seven consecutive games at the end of March.
They extended their season with a 123-118 win as 5.5-point underdogs at New Orleans on Wednesday. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 25 of his 32 points after halftime, including a go-ahead jumper and four free throws in the final 29 seconds. He shot 11 of 22 from the floor and matched his season scoring average.
“I wanted to kind of set the table to make sure my teammates were ready to go, confident and attacking,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “And I know once I did that, the defense would have to worry about them as well and my offensive game would open up.”
Point guard Josh Giddey had a big game as well, finishing with 31 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, while small forward Lu Dort scored 27 points and grabbed five boards. The Thunder force an NBA-best 16.7 turnovers per game and averaged 24.5 points off Minnesota in the four meetings between these teams this season.
The Timberwolves have gone ‘under’ the total in six of their last eight games and at an 11-4-1 clip in their last 16 home games. Oklahoma City has gone ‘under’ in four of its last five road games—these teams have cashed the ‘under’ in five of the last six head-to-head meetings.
The pick: Minnesota -5.5
I was happy to back the Thunder as 5.5-point ‘dogs against New Orleans, but this line simply must be steeper than that game. Minnesota is significantly better than a Zion Williamson-less Pelicans team, especially if Gobert winds up playing. The Timberwolves have cranked up their defense in recent weeks, and their offense is not going to cold for the entire fourth quarter again on Friday. They have an extra day of rest, home-court advantage and Towns is back in the lineup. Minnesota was a 5.5-point home favorite against Oklahoma City without Towns in December, so this line should be several points steeper than it is.