The Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers are winding down their regular seasons. Plenty of fans for each team will want them to tank and lose to get better odds of a high draft pick.
The Minnesota Timberwolves Can Win Because…
They are facing a mirror image of themselves, at least in terms of defensive awareness and consistency. The T-Wolves aren’t doing well on defense in their own right, but against the Lakers, they might be able to outscore their opponent and win. Los Angeles looked terrible on Wednesday night in a 119-101 loss at Denver. The Lakers couldn’t force many turnovers – only nine – and they allowed the Nuggets to hit 50 percent of their shots, including 13 of 30 three-point shots. Denver got to the foul line over 20 times (24), and collected 26 assists on its 44 made baskets, which is almost 60 percent.
The Lakers are also a beaten-up team. Nick Young is on the shelf with kneecap injury. Jeremy Lin missed the Denver game with a left knee injury. Wayne Ellington has a shoulder injury. Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill, part of this team’s frontcourt, were held out of the lineup against Denver at the discretion of coach Byron Scott. Given that the Lakers had a thin bench to begin with, one can only wonder about the decision to not play Boozer or Hill. This team is a mess, and Minnesota is good enough to take advantage of that fact.
The Los Angeles Lakers Can Win Because…
They are playing a team that just can’t defend the paint. Minnesota did hold Portland to 12 of 33 shooting from three-point range on Wednesday night. That’s not great, but it’s also not bad. However, the Timberwolves had no answer for the Trail Blazers when it came to defending the area near the basket. Portland hit 30 of its 52 two-point shots, nearly 60 percent. That’s an eye-catching statistic, and it’s also inexcusable for Minnesota or any other NBA team to get bullied like that. It’s true that without Kevin Garnett, this team’s ability to defend the basket is severely compromised, but the rate of success Portland had in attacking the rim on Wednesday should be highly alarming to the Timberwolves. They cannot continue to go through games giving up nearly a 60 percent conversion rate on two-point shots if they expect to win. Even though the Lakers are banged up, a struggling Minnesota team could naturally be exactly what Los Angeles needs as it tries to move back into the win column.
One other thing about the Timberwolves is that they didn’t even shoot well against Portland. The defense was bad enough, but Minnesota hit under 38 percent of its shots. It’s not as though the Timberwolves gave away more possessions. They were minus-2 in offensive rebounds, which is no big deal. Minnesota was plus-4 in turnovers, so the T-Wolves took the same amount of shots (85) as the Blazers did. However, they made 10 fewer shots. Los Angeles can pounce on a team that can’t score, which is probably the reason they're short favorites on the NBA odds.
The Lakers can see that Minnesota is bad at both ends of the floor, but Los Angeles is really beaten up. And while the T-Wolves are still trying (somewhat) because they are developing young talent, the Lakers are mailing it in with the goal of tanking. Take the Timberwolves to cover the NBA spread in this spot with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Minnesota +5.5 at The Greek