The Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t quite get it done Tuesday night, but they’ve been a very good NBA pick over the past month. Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves could be tricky, though.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 23: 59-52-4 ATS, 5-10 Totals, plus-2.15 units ML
So close, and yet so far. The Los Angeles Lakers had a lay-up opportunity underneath the basket to steal a matador cover off the Oklahoma City Thunder (–9.5 at home) Tuesday night, but they failed to convert, losing 127-117. Phooey. And that was without Jordan Hill or Carlos Boozer in the lineup; they were held out for no particular reason, cough cough tanking cough.
Los Angeles (18-51 SU, 32-33-4 ATS) might want to sit some more players Wednesday night. Next up are the Minnesota Timberwolves, the only team with a worse record in the Western Conference at 16-54 SU and 31-38-1 ATS. The Lakers will have to send this year’s first-round pick to Philadelphia (via Phoenix) if they land outside the Top 5 in the 2015 Draft lottery. Every loss counts – which is partly why the NBA odds for this matchup are on hold as we go to press.
Obviously it’ll be difficult to make a sharp basketball pick in Wednesday’s matchup (8:00 p.m. ET) when we don’t even know who’s going to play for Los Angeles. But in general, the Lakers have been a solid follow candidate for the past several weeks. They’re 5-10 SU and 11-4 ATS since Feb. 20. We’ve managed to collect some of that sweet, sweet cash backing Lakers; if you’ve been following along, you know the drill by now.
It’s not necessarily that detrimental if Hill (16.4 PER, minus-1.9 BPM) and Boozer (16.7 PER, minus-2.8 BPM) sit out another game for the L.A., either. That means more minutes for Ryan Kelly (5.9 PER, minus-4.9 BPM) and Robert Sacre (11.1 PER, minus-2.5 BPM), and while that’s not a good thing, it’s not as much of a downgrade as the betting market might be led to believe.
Tuesday’s starting lineup also featured Jeremy Lin (16.0 PER, minus-0.3 BPM) in the backcourt, which was a pleasant surprise. Wayne Ellington (12.1 PER, minus-2.5 BPM) was shuffled to the bench. Lord knows what shenanigans head coach Byron Scott might have up his sleeve for Wednesday, but the basketball odds are likely to overcompensate in response.
Meanwhile, the Timberwolves are already guaranteed to retain their 2015 first-rounder at this point. That pick will only end up going to Boston (via Phoenix again) if it falls outside the Top 12; even if the Wolves win all 12 of their remaining games, they can only leapfrog a maximum of six teams in the standings, including Los Angeles. That means they can’t fall any lower than No. 11 in the draft lottery – assuming we’re reading the fine print correctly.
In theory, they’ll still want to lose as much as possible to maximize their chances of picking up someone like Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor. But there’s not really much point in rolling out the tanks anymore. The Wolves are playing with a bit more verve now, going 2-2 SU and 3-1 ATS in their last four games despite injuries to just about everyone on the roster.
This is where things get even more complicated for our NBA picks. There are five Minnesota players who are listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game, including Ricky Rubio (15.2 PER, minus-0.2 BPM) and Nikola Pekovic (16.7 PER, minus-4.2 BPM). Again, not necessarily a bad thing for the Wolves when it comes to the basketball odds. But they’re down to a seven-man rotation at this point, including, who was signed off the street last week. We’re going to advise that you wait until the shootaround to see who’s going to play for both teams. As for our pick, we’ll go with the OVER, which is 20-15 this year at the Tar-Zhay.
Free NBA Pick: Take the OVER at BetOnline