NBA Picks for Timberwolves vs. 76ers

Matthew Jordan

Monday, January 6, 2014 3:21 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 3:21 PM UTC

It's perhaps the most unlikely NBA winning streak of the season. The Philadelphia 76ers, one of those teams unabashedly in full-on tank mode for the loaded 2014 NBA draft, opened a six-game road trip on Dec. 21 with just a single away victory this season. They lost the first two games of the trip, in Milwaukee and Phoenix.

Then something clicked.

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A 111-104 win at the Lakers as 7-point underdogs on NBA odds. OK, not an incredible shock considering the Lakers are gutted by injury in the backcourt, including to Kobe Bryant. Then a 114-102 win in Denver as a 9-point dog on sportsbook odds on New Year's Day. Well, the Nuggets also are injury-ravaged. The next night, Minnesota went to Sacramento as an 8.5-point dog on NBA odds and upset the Kings 113-104. Yeah, nice, but Sacramento is lousy as usual this season.

However, Minnesota's 101-99 victory Saturday at Portland as a 12.5-point dog at the sportsbooks was one of the biggest upsets of the season as the Blazers had the best record in the Western Conference. Philly's Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner, two young guys having strong years and very much available on the trade market, continued their excellent recent play with a combined 53 points against Portland. Young is averaging 26.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.6 steals in the past five games. Turner, the former No. 2 overall pick out of Ohio State, is averaging 23.0 points, 7.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds in the past five. The team seems likely to trade him because it doesn't want to pay the soon-to-be restricted free agent a massive contract as Philly rebuilds.

The Sixers are clearly a different club with point guard Michael Carter-Williams in the lineup. The team is 1-10 in games in which the likely NBA Rookie of the Year has missed with injury/infection. MCW filled up the box score again vs. the Blazers with 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists, but he fell hard on the court at the end of the game, hitting his head.  Carter-Williams said he's fine and he should be in the lineup on Monday against Minnesota. The Wolves are 7-point favorites with a total of 219.5.

Inconsistent Wolves

Many sportsbooks expected the Minnesota Timberwolves to be a playoff contender this season with both Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love healthy and the addition of free-agent guard Kevin Martin from Oklahoma City. Yet despite an MVP-caliber season from Love -- he's second in the NBA in scoring at 26.4 points per game and first in rebounding at 13.5 per game -- they are just 16-17 entering Monday. Minnesota can score, ranking second in the league at 106.8, but can't defend, ranking 27th at 102.9 points per game.

The Wolves have allowed at least 100 points in three straight games and seven of the past nine. They enter off a 115-111 home loss to the Thunder on Saturday as a 1.5-point favorite on the NBA odds. Minnesota couldn't stop NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant as he put up a season-high 48 points, including the winner with four seconds left as OKC rallied from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit thanks to 23 in that quarter from Durant. Love was typically excellent with 30 points and 14 rebounds.

Backup forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, acquired early this season from Sacramento for former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams, missed the Thunder game with a groin injury and is iffy for Monday. He's arguably the Wolves' best wing defender. Fellow forward Chase Budinger also remains out following knee surgery but could return later this week.

The Wolves haven't been above .500 since Nov. 23 when they were 8-7. But should they beat the Sixers, getting back over break even looks doable as Minnesota hosts Phoenix on Wednesday and Charlotte on Friday.

Free NBA Pick

Minnesota isn't a great road team straight up at 6-11 but a solid 10-7 ATS away from home. Philly is 7-8 at home but only 6-9 ATS. When these teams met Dec. 11 in Minneapolis, the Wolves won 106-99 as 12.5-point favorites at the sportsbooks with the total staying under the 210.5. Philly jumped to a 39-20 lead and was still up 13 at halftime before being dominated after intermission. Love finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Carter-Williams missed that game and without their point guard the 76ers had a whopping 26 turnovers.

The Timberwolves have won four straight in this series and they probably make it five. However, teams usually play pretty well in their first home game back from a long trip. So even though the Sixers have covered just one of their past six at  home, they will do so Monday in what should be a high-scoring affair so also lean on the over for your NBA picks. The over is 4-1 in the past five meetings in Philly.

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