NBA Picks: Timberwolves vs. Spurs

Matthew Jordan

Sunday, January 12, 2014 1:45 PM UTC

Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014 1:45 PM UTC

Death, taxes and the San Antonio Spurs winning 50 games. Those are the three sure things in life -- at least in this century.

Every year since the 1999-2000 season, even the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, the Spurs have won at least 50 games. That trend won't end this season, either, as San Antonio is atop the Western Conference with a 28-8 record and enters Sunday's game against visiting Minnesota having won three straight and six of seven (4-3 ATS). The Spurs are 6-point favorites with a total of 211.5 on NBA odds against the Timberwolves.

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Tough  Love

Minnesota star and MVP candidate Kevin Love finally blew his stack following the Wolves' 104-103 home loss to a Phoenix team missing star guard Eric Bledsoe on Wednesday. Love basically singled out veterans J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham for their body language in the fourth quarter, saying the team would be better off playing end of bench guys who at least care about the game. Love should be frustrated because of how well he's playing and how inconsistent this talented group is. It seems more and more likely that Love will bolt Minnesota when he can opt out in the summer of 2015 -- the Knicks and hometown Lakers already are salivating at the chance to get him.

Apparently Love's motivational tactics worked as Minnesota creamed visiting Charlotte 119-92 on Friday night as a 10-point favorite. That's what makes the Timberwolves baffling. They have an NBA-high eight wins of at least 20 points but are 0-10 in games decided by four points or fewer. Sunday will be their ninth try since Nov. 23 to get back over .500. The team is a bit more whole now with the return of small forward Chase Budinger off knee surgery. He has totaled 27 minutes in his two games back and has 14 points. He may or may not replace Corey Brewer in the starting five once Budinger is ready to play heavy minutes. Backup center Ronny Turiaf has been back for three games off an elbow injury. He's averaged 17.7 minutes and 6.7 rebounds in those three.

Well-Oiled Spurs Machine

Many teams in the NBA struggle when they lose a key component. Not San Antonio. The Spurs beat Memphis 110-108 in overtime Tuesday on Manu Ginobili's game-winning layup with 1.8 seconds remaining. Most teams also would have collapsed in the extra session after blowing a 16-point lead in the final five minutes of regulation. Again, not San Antonio, the most even-keeled, professional team perhaps in all of American sports.

Most teams that play the night after a draining overtime game put up a stinker, but not San Antonio. Ginobili missed Wednesday's home game against Dallas with a minor hamstring injury and the Spurs simply blew out the Mavericks 112-90 as 5.5-point favorites on NBA odds. Ho-hum, Tony Parker had 25 points and seven assists, and Tim Duncan 16 points and 13 rebounds. It was Duncan's third straight double-double. San Antonio moved Marco Belinelli back to the bench to serve as the sixth man with Ginobili out and he responded with 17 points; Danny Green slid back into the starting lineup at shooting guard. He had lost that job to Belinelli because Green was struggling defensively. Green isn't doing much offensively, either, averaging 7.6 points in 22.8 minutes. Ginobili is 50-50 to play Sunday; the Spurs are now 2-0 without him in 2013-14.

The Spurs remain without starting center Tiago Splitter (8.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) for perhaps another month with a shoulder injury. Coach Gregg Popovich simply gives more time to guys like Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner, Jeff Ayers and Aron Baynes, the last two of which most casual NBA fans probably haven't heard of, and they all seem to contribute in one way or another.

Last Meeting

This should have been the third meeting of the season. The first was scheduled for Dec. 4 in Mexico City as a Minnesota home game but was postponed due to smoke in the arena. Smoke in Mexico City? Shocker. That game will now be played April 8 in Minneapolis. On Dec. 13 in San Antonio, the Spurs won 117-110 as 8.5-point favorites with a total of 208 at sportsbooks. The Spurs outscored the Wolves 37-21 in the fourth quarter. Tony Parker had 20 points and Ginobili 20 points and nine assists. Those two combined for 28 fourth-quarter points. Love was a beast with 42 points (8-for-9 from long range) and 14 rebounds.

Make sure to check out our Free NBA Picks for Cavaliers vs. Kings

The Pick

The Spurs have owned this series at home, winning 41 of 50 matchups. Minnesota ended a 16-game losing streak at San Antonio in the final game of the 2012-13 regular seasons, but that meant squat as the Spurs had nothing to play for and rested their Big 3 the entire fourth quarter. San Antonio is rested and rolling, Manu or not. Give the points and the over for your free college basketball picks. The Wolves are just 3-10 ATS in their past 13 after a win.

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