The LA Lakers are not going to make the playoffs this season, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are just about ready to join them on the first tee. But there's still the matter of the last couple of weeks of this NBA regular season.
As of early Friday morning this game had not yet been lined, probably because of the uncertainly surrounding Minnesota C Nikola Pekovic.
The Lakers have been, as they say, “playing out the string” on this lost season for quite a while now. Injury-riddled LA recently lost seven of eight, then won two in a row, including a 127-96 victory over New York Tuesday in which it scored 51 points in the third quarter.
But the Lakers dropped one Thursday night in Milwaukee 108-105, committing 20 turnovers while allowing the Bucks, of all teams, to shoot 56 percent from the floor. LA fell behind by a dozen, had a chance to tie it at the end, but still lost to the worst team in the league.
Minnesota, meanwhile, isn't dead yet in the playoff race, but it don't look good. A recent three-game losing streak dropped the 'Wolves to the edge of elimination. But last time out, Wednesday night, Minnesota pounded a shorthanded Atlanta outfit 107-83. The T'Wolves shot 50 percent from the floor, limited the Hawks to 38 percent shooting, led by 28 points at one time and covered as five-point favorites.
At 35-35 Minnesota is nine games behind Phoenix in the race for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, with just 12 games to play. But while the T'Wolves probably won't make up that ground in that short amount of time, they'd probably still like to finish above .500 for the first time in recent memory.
LA had beaten Minnesota 22 times in a row, but the T'Wolves have taken two of three games from the Lakers this season. Minnesota beat LA back in November 113-90; the Lakers then beat the Timberwolves 104-91 back just before Christmas. Most recently the T-Wolves topped the Lakers 109-99 at Staples Center six weeks ago, despite missing Pekovic, who's been dealing with a bad ankle for about the last two months.
All three meetings this season played UNDER the totals.
The Lakers rank third in the league by shooting 39 percent from 3-point range. But they also rank 23rd in FG defense allowing foes to shoot 46 percent from the floor, and they rank dead bleepin' last in rebounding at -7.5 boards per game.
Minnesota may average 104 PPG but doesn't really shoot the ball that well, except from the line, where it's hitting at 78 percent. But on the other end the 'Wolves rank dead last in the league in FG defense, allowing opponents to shoot 47 percent from the floor.
LA is 41-30 on the totals this season, as Lakers games have averaged a league-high 211 total points. But Thursday night's game played UNDER, because it was listed so high, at 219. Oddsmakers have been posting some pretty big totals on the Lakers lately.
Minnesota is 32-35 on the totals, even as its games have averaged 210 points. The Timberwolves have been tagged with some relatively large totals recently, although not a high as LA's.
The Lakers are 19-17 ATS on the road this season, although that probably says less about them, and more about the points they've been getting.
Minnesota is 15-19 ATS this season at home.
Pekovic (18/9 this season) has missed the last two weeks with that sore ankle; reports indicate he could come back this weekend, but he's questionable for Friday. However, rookie Gorgui Dieng has picked up some of the slack, averaging 13 points and 14 rebounds over his last six games.
Also, Minnesota PG Ricky Rubio took some stitches to the lip Thursday night but re-entered the game and is expected to play Friday.
For the Lakers, as if they didn't have enough problems with Kobe, Nash and Jordan Farmar, now Pau Gasol is out as he deals with what's been reported as a bout with vertigo. Chris Kaman has gone 13/9 and 13/4 in his place the last two games.
This is a tough one, because it's hard to tell how these teams might approach this game. Minnesota, technically, still has something to play for, but that doesn't necessarily mean much. The Timberwolves just shot 50 percent from the floor against Atlanta, and LA hasn't been playing much defense lately. The Lakers are also playing for the second straight night, on the road. So we'll go with Minnesota for our free NBA picks for this game.