Suns to Cover Short Number vs. Timberwolves

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 1:18 PM GMT

The No. 7 Suns have been one of the big surprises of the season and are looking for a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009-10. Phoenix opened as a 3.5-point favorite on NBA odds for sports bettors on Tuesday's game with a total of 213.

The Minnesota Timberwolves expected to contend for a playoff spot this season after adding free agent Kevin Martin to a healthy Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, but the team can't seem to put a long winning streak together and is 6.5 games out of the final postseason spot in the West. Thus something like a 20-6 run to close the season might be needed to have a chance.

Prepare Your Resume Adelman!

Minnesota (29-27 ATS, 25-28-3 O/U at sportsbooks) hasn't been more than three games over .500 all season and missed a chance to return to break even on Sunday in a 108-97 loss at Portland. The Wolves were up 18 at one point in the second quarter but perhaps predictably faded in the second of a back-to-back. Portland outscored Minnesota 74-45 after that big deficit.

Love filled up the stat sheet as usual with 30 points and 10 rebounds, although he didn't have an assist and was team-worst minus-19. He has now scored at least 30 in five straight games, a franchise first.  Love was named the Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday. The Wolves again played without Martin and starting center Nikola Pekovic. The latter has been out since Jan. 27 with an ankle injury and there's a small chance he returns Tuesday. He's averaging 18.0 points and 9.1 rebounds. The Wolves are 5-7 in the 12 games he has missed this time. Martin is hoping to perhaps get back by this weekend. He has missed six straight games with a thumb injury. Finally, backup center Ronny Turiaf has missed the past two games with a knee injury and is expected out a few more weeks. So that means 6-foot-8 Dante Cunningham could start at center again.

If the Timberwolves do miss the playoffs, Coach Rick Adelman's job is in jeopardy.

Run-And-Gun Suns

Phoenix (36-18-1 ATS, 30-24-1 O/U at sportsbooks) has a Coach of the Year candidate in Jeff Hornacek as most expected the Suns to be one of the worst teams in the NBA, especially after trading center Marcin Gortat on the eve of the season to Washington for Emeka Okafor's expiring contract. Okafor hasn't played this season and won't. Plus big offseason acquisition Eric Bledsoe hasn't played since Dec. 30 because of a knee issue that required surgery. Bledsoe is hoping to be back in two weeks. The team is 14-11 without him. Also, the Suns' No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Alex Len, has barely played this year.

Guard Goran Dragic has carried the Suns in a breakout campaign. He had career-high 35 points on Sunday but Phoenix lost 115-112 at home to Houston to end a three-game winning streak. Dragic, who should have been an All-Star, was 14-for-20 from the field but missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.  The Suns had rallied from 18 down and led by 10 entering the fourth quarter. Gerald Green had 23 points for Phoenix, and he's been very solid starting for Bledsoe. Green is averaging 23.0 points in the past five.

Season Series

Second of three meetings. Phoenix won 104-103 in Minnesota on Jan. 8 as an 8-point underdog on NBA odds. Green's jumper with 3.9 seconds left finished a rally from six points down with less than two minutes remaining for the Suns. Dragic had 26 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Martin had 20 for the Wolves but missed the potential winner. You may remember that game as afterward Love publicly called out teammates Cunningham and J.J. Barea for their sulking on the bench. Love had 12 rebounds but was just 4-for-20 from the field.

NBA free picks: In our free NBA picks tonight, we'll take the Suns -3.5 and over. The Wolves are 1-5 ATS in their past six after a loss while the Suns have covered six straight against teams with a losing record. The over is 8-1 in Phoenix's past nine against the West and 6-2 in the past eight meetings between these teams in Phoenix. The Wolves and Suns are two of the Top-5 scoring teams in the NBA.

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