With New Orleans tied with Oklahoma City for the last playoff spot in the West, the NBA odds are certainly in the favor of the visitor who owns the tie-breaker with a 3-1 record over the Thunder.
The Pelicans mission is simple, win their last two games and they earn the right to be clobbered by Golden State in the playoffs. Truth is, New Orleans is not worried about who they would face, just getting into the postseason would be a stepping stone and once in, for those of us NBA basketball handicappers who follow the NBA betting odds, once you have a point spread, that is the great equalizer.
What New Orleans has to do to Win (and maybe cover)
The Pelicans could have been in position to wrap up a playoff berth but they lost at Houston 121-114 as five-point underdogs. Somehow New Orleans managed to fall despite taking 18 more shots than the Rockets. The contest was tied going into the fourth quarter, but the disparity in free throw shooting was the difference with Houston have 34 made shots from the charity stripe compared the Pelicans only having 22 attempts (15 made).
The positive news out of defeat was point guard Jrue Holiday played his second straight contest after missing 41 and in 15 minutes scored 17 points. Coach Monty Williams would like to up his minutes, but not at the expense of risking injury.
Tonight New Orleans has to be better on defense, after allowing a season-worst 53.4 percent shooting defense versus the Rockets. Minnesota rookie Alan Wiggins has been playing well and it will be up to Quincy Poindexter and Dante Cunningham to slow him down.
With Ricky Rubio done the season, backup Zach LaVine showed he can fill it up in scoring 37 against Golden State on Saturday and New Orleans guards have to make certain he doesn’t get his confidence started.
If the Pelicans contain this two-some, they will have an excellent chance to move to 17-24 (22-18-1 ATS) for their final road game.
Minnesota Has Pulse and Little Else
The Timberwolves have lost 10 in a row (3-7 ATS) yet could impact who earns the final slot for the Western Conference playoffs. Besides New Orleans tonight, on Wednesday, they will face Oklahoma City.
At 16-64 (33-45-2 ATS), Minnesota has been hit as hard as any team in the league with injuries up and down it’s ever evolving roster. Besides the current losing streak, the T-Wolves have lost 15 of 17 (6-11 ATS) and both victories came on the road, leading to their last home win being on Mar. 7th against Portland.
It would be really easy to pile on Minnesota, but the truth is better days are ahead for this franchise. The development of Wiggins and LaVine has been notable and do not leave out Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. In addition, add in 22-year old Anthony Bennett, 24-year old Adreian Payne and they are likely to add Duke’s Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns in the draft and in two years Minnesota is where the Milwaukee Bucks are this season and on the rise. Also, don’t forget Rubio will only be 25 next season, but he needs to stay healthy.
Will any of this realistically help the T-Wolves knock off New Orleans tonight, probably not if you are thinking about sports picks, but at least there is hope.
Betting Odds and Head to Head
Depending on the sportsbook, New Orleans is a 10.5 or 11-point road favorite with a total of 198.5. The Pelicans are 3-0 SU and ATS this season against Minnesota and two of the games were absolute blowouts, which is why their average margin of victory has been a humongous 26 points a contest.
New Orleans is .500 as a road fave (6-7-1 ATS), but is 13-6 ATS when playing without rest this season (9-10 SU).
There are few positives to uncover about Minnesota, who is 4-25 and 11-18 ATS as home underdog.
If you are making NBA picks it would take a certain amount of courage to back Minnesota in this spot because they are the far weaker squad and they have been nailed by New Orleans in the previous matchups.
Nonetheless, the T-Wolves are 10-6 ATS since Jan. 13th when catching double digits and the Pelicans are 2-11 versus the spread after playing in a contest in which 225 or more points were reached. At least think about Minnesota on Monday night.
NBA Basketball Free Pick: Minnesota +11