Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Line: Minnesota -3
Where: Target Center
When: Tuesday, 4/12 at 9:30 p.m. ET
Los Angeles will be hoping its hot finish to the regular season will bleed over into the postseason when it travels to Minnesota for a play-in tournament tilt on Tuesday night.
The winner of Tuesday’s game at the Target Center will determine the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, earning a series against No. 2 seed Memphis in the first round. Tuesday’s loser will face the winner of Wednesday’s game between No. 9 seed New Orleans and No. 10 seed San Antonio to determine the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.
Oddsmakers opened Minnesota as a 2.5-point home favorite, but the early betting action has moved the line to -3. The total opened at 231 and has seen some slight movement down to 230.5, as of Monday night.
Los Angeles was on fire to close the regular season, winning five straight games down the stretch, covering the spread in four of those wins. The Clippers have had to make-do without star forward Kawhi Leonard (knee) for the entire season—Paul George has only been available for 30 games, but he is healthy heading into the playoffs.
The Clippers will lean heavily on George, who is averaging 24.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He paces an offense that is No. 23 in the NBA in points per game (108.4). Norman Powell is adding 21.4 points, while Reggie Jackson is chipping in 16.8 points.
Power forward Nicolas Batum (ankle) and shooting guard Luke Kennard (hamstring) are both ‘questionable’ to play on Tuesday. They are combining to average nearly 20 points per game this season.
Los Angeles has plenty of playoff experience on its roster, as it made the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history last year. Power forward Marcus Morris, who averages 15.4 points and 4.4 rebounds, is another veteran that the Clippers can turn to on Tuesday. They are facing a Minnesota defense that is No. 24 in the NBA, allowing 113.3 points per game.
The Timberwolves rely on their production on the other end of the court, as they lead the NBA in points per game (115.9). They went through a fantastic stretch in March, winning 10 out of 11 games. Their level dipped a bit down the stretch of the regular season, as they lost six of their final 10 contests.
Star guard D’Angelo Russell missed the final two games due to an illness, but he was removed from the injury report on Monday. He was the team’s third-leading scorer this season, averaging 18.1 points per game. Russell is also Minnesota’s top distributor, dishing out 7.1 assists per outing.
Center Karl-Anthony Towns leads the way with 24.6 points and 9.8 rebounds, while guard Anthony Edwards is adding 21.3 points. The Timberwolves have some experience of their own in the form of veteran guard Pat Beverley, who spent four seasons with the Clippers before being dealt to Minnesota in the offseason.
Beverley has played in 59 career playoff games and is averaging 9.2 points per game this season. Los Angeles will be looking to avoid falling into Beverley’s emotional trap, one that he is very good at setting.
“I’m not going through Pat,” George said. “We’re going through the T-Wolves. This is not a Paul George versus Pat Beverley match. This is not a Pat Bev versus Clippers matchup. I’m not even going to make that the narrative.”
Los Angeles has only covered the spread twice in its last eight games as an underdog, including a 1-4 ATS mark in its last five such road games. Minnesota is 1-4 ATS in its last five home games and is winless against the spread in its last four games overall.
The pick: Minnesota -3
George might want not Beverley’s name being a narrative on Tuesday night, but his intensity is certainly going to be a difference maker. Like him or hate him, Beverley is exactly the type of player needed to win in the postseason. He is the perfect complementary piece to Towns, Edwards and Russell, who provide Minnesota with more talented scoring options than Los Angeles. Outside of George, the Clippers do not have the high-level, iso-ball players that it takes to win in the playoffs. Los Angeles has also not performed well as an underdog, covering the spread twice in its last eight games. Minnesota has more talent and has home-court advantage, so I will lay the small number on Tuesday night.