The Portland Trail Blazers are in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference playoff field & are laying a huge NBA odds spread against a Timberwolves team that looks like they’ve tapped out.
The Minnesota Timberwolves Can Win Because…
They are playing a team that did not look good in its last game. It’s true that Portland was playing a makeup game in Brooklyn, meaning that it had to fly across the country for one game and then come back home – that’s not an easy situation for athletes, even highly-paid professionals, late in the season. Nevertheless, Portland sat LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum in this game, and the Blazers didn’t show much without them. Portland gave up 32 points and nine rebounds to Brook Lopez of Brooklyn, who ran wild in the paint and dominated his brother, Portland center Robin Lopez, who finished 4 of 11 from the field for eight points. If Minnesota has trouble defending the paint, that might be a problem with Aldridge, but Robin Lopez will not terrify the Timberwolves in the frontcourt.
Two other things about the Blazers should give Minnesota hope. First, Portland shot only nine free throws against Brooklyn. Second, the Blazers forced only six turnovers from the Nets. Those are signs of passive play, and with Andrew Wiggins of Minnesota earning 13 free throws in his most recent game, one could clearly argue that the T-Wolves might be the aggressors in this game. Portland could face a problem or two.
The Portland Trail Blazers Can Win Because…
They are going up against a team with a very vulnerable interior defense. The Timberwolves are in sad shape when it comes to defending the paint. They were obliterated in their most recent game on Tuesday when the Sacramento Kings scored 116 points. On Friday, the Orlando Magic handled them too. Nikola Vucevic of the Magic went off like a cannon, hitting 18 of 25 shots and scoring 37 points while grabbing 17 rebounds. The monster performance led to a 13-point loss for Minnesota, which has to wonder how an opposing big man could meet with so little resistance.
It’s true that Kevin Garnett didn’t play in that game against Orlando due to a sore left knee. He could be available for this game, but that’s not 100 percent certain at the moment. Yet, even with Garnett out, a decent NBA team’s backup big men should be able to prevent an opposing center from going for 37 and 17. What had to be just as alarming as Vucevic’s stat line was that Orlando outrebounded Minnesota on the offensive glass, 20 to 3. That’s just unacceptable for any NBA team in any situation. The T-Wolves also committed 20 turnovers against Orlando for good measure. They also made only one three-point shot in 11 attempts. Shooting guard Kevin Martin was just 3 of 12 from the field. Zach LaVine is a great dunker, but he was only 5 of 14 from the field. This team is a mess, the NBA odds makers have them as +16.5 underdogs and Portland – with LaMarcus Aldridge licking his chops – should feast in the paint against Minnesota.
The Blazers’ woes against Brooklyn are probably more the product of the odd travel schedule for a makeup game, plus the absence of key players, more than they are a sign of impending deterioration. Portland should bounce back here – especially against a Timberwolves team that’s in a back-to-back situation, banged up and playing with little fire. Take the Blazers with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Portland -16.5 at BookMaker