Talent-wise, Minnesota really shouldn't be a 21-22 team. And if the Wolves were in the Eastern Conference this season they probably wouldn't be. Every loss just adds to the likelihood that Kevin Love either leaves following next season when he can become a free agent -- the Knicks and Lakers can't wait -- or he makes Minnesota trade him like Carmelo Anthony did to Denver.
The Timberwolves (23-20 ATS, 21-20-2 O/U at sportsbooks) had their three-game winning streak -- and a chance to get over .500 -- ended in Saturday's 115-104 loss in Portland, failing to cover the seven points they were getting for sports bettors. It was Minnesota's 10th failed attempt to get over the break-even mark since Thanksgiving. So the Wolves are the West's version of the Washington Wizards.
Saturday's loss somewhat summarized the problem for this team in that it can score with anyone but struggles on the defensive end. Love, an All-Star starter for the first time, was pretty much outplayed by counterpart LaMarcus Aldridge, who appeared on a mission to make a statement because Love made the Western Conference's first five over him. Kevin Martin was the star for Minnesota with 30 points. He's rolling, averaging 22.4 points in the past five games (but can't guard anyone). Point guard Ricky Rubio played through a sprained left ankle suffered Friday night in a win over Golden State and had 10 points and 11 assists vs. Portland. Minnesota's bench didn't help, getting outscored 35-14 by the deeper Blazers.
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The Bulls, meanwhile, continue to essentially defy their front office and just lie down and lose since the Luol Deng trade -- Mike Dunleavy and/or Kirk Hinrich are likely the next to go before the deadline. Interestingly, the Bulls are the only team in the NBA that allows exactly as many points as it scores (92.9).
Chicago beat Charlotte 89-87 on Saturday in the second of a back-to-back for both behind 28 points --15 in the fourth quarter -- from rejuvenated guard D.J. Augustin, his third game in the past four in which Augustin has scored at least 27. Thanks largely to him the Bulls have won 10 of 13. It has largely come against lousy teams.
Don't be shocked if guard Jimmy Butler either sits out Monday or is limited. Coach Tom Thibodeau, who has been criticized for riding his top players way too many minutes, used Butler for a whopping 60 in a triple-overtime loss at Orlando on Jan. 15. That was the most played by any guy in the NBA in more than a decade. So, shocker, Butler is rather beaten up. His shooting has been way off since that game. This is why you hear rumors that Thibodeau might coach the Knicks next season. He's a defensive wizard but has been at odds with the Chicago front office and was betrayed that Deng, his favorite player, was dealt. Then again, there was no reason for Derrick Rose to be on the court when he first blew out his knee at the end of a playoff blowout against the 76ers.
This is the first of two matchups, with Chicago visiting the Twin Cities on April 9. The Bulls swept the season series a year ago and have won seven straight against Minnesota, three in a row in the Windy City. It will be great theater for old-school basketball fans watching Love and Joakim Noah go at it on the boards. Noah has had 16 straight games of at least 10 rebounds and is averaging 13.9 per game this month. Love is second in the NBA at 13.0 rebounds per game.NBA free pick: Chicago +2.5 and the under. The Wolves have covered once in the past eight meetings and the under has hit in five of the past six.