NBA Picks: Kobe's Poor Shooting Hurts Lakers Chances vs. T-Wolves

Mark Lathrop

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 11:46 AM GMT

Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 11:46 AM GMT

The Lakers are playing for a lottery pick now, while the Timberwolves have had a competitive start to the season. Our NBA odds capper analyzes their second matchup of the year and makes his NBA Pick.

L.A. Lakers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
The 3-18 Los Angeles Lakers continue their losing road trip on Wednesday night as they visit the 8-12 Minnesota Timberwolves in the Target Center. The Timberwolves have lost four straight after a surprising 8-8 start and now find themselves 4.5 games back of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference. The NBA is taking liberties with the use of “Northwest” and “Minnesota”, but I guess you could say that Northwest Airlines used to be headquartered there.

With Minnesota at least striking distance in their division, it is interesting to note that the Lakers are a few games from being mathematically eliminated in the Pacific Division. Ok, not really, but they are 19 games back already in their division behind the 23-0 Golden State Warriors. The Lakers are playing for lottery draft position and Kobe Bryant publicity only this year. They are also playing to get last year’s lottery picks, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, important experience.

Russell and Randle had been the bright spots in the Lakers lineup of late, but inexplicably, they were asked to come off of the bench in their latest loss against Toronto. Coach Byron Scott, citing a ‘need for change’, decided the young duo would bring a measure of energy coming off the bench. Maybe they were too close to starting to win some games and he decided to protect that lottery pick a little more? Either way, the Lakers starting five +/- is worse than the 1-21 Philadelphia Sixers right now. I guess if there was a season to start tanking so early it may be the one where it could be statistically impossible to win the division against the Warriors.

 

History & Trends
These teams met in the first game of the season for both squads shortly after the passing of Timberwolves patriarch, Flip Saunders. The Timberwolves went on to win that game 112-111, with Ricky Rubio leading Minnesota with 28 points and 14 assists. Kevin Martin also added 23 points in that game and was effective at getting to the free throw line where he was 10-11 shooting.

The Lakers in that game were led by Kobe Bryant with 24 points on 8-24 shooting from the field. It was the beginning of a trend for the Lakers star, as he has put up more shots per game than his shooting percentage in the first 21 games of the season. Kobe’s 30.6% shooting percentage is by far the worst mark in his career, even worse than last year’s 37.3% shooting percentage. In no other season has Kobe shot less than 40% from the field. His 3PT field goal percentage sits at 21.9%. Not good when you consider he is taking 7.6 three-pointers per game – his highest rate in his career by far.

Minnesota has their own old man on the bench with Kevin Garnett. However, instead of the 30+ minutes that Kobe is getting, Garnett is averaging 16 minutes per game on the floor. He’s able to put up that many quality minutes per game, but nothing more, and the Timberwolves aren’t forcing anything on their aging, sentimental star.

 

Final Analysis
As it stands now, the Timberwolves are playing like a team in the regular season, while the Lakers are stuck in spring training mode. There are just no consequences to losing a game with the Lakers right now. Add that to a Timberwolves team trying to break a home losing streak, and their earlier win against the Lakers this year, and I see no reason to try to fade the favorite. Based on the NBA odds board, take the Minnesota Timberwolves -6 at Bovada as one of your Wednesday NBA picks.

Free NBA Pick: Timberwolves -6 at Bovada

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