The NBA Play-In Tournament is here, and the first game in the Western Conference will feature the Minnesota Timberwolves in Los Angeles to take on the Lakers. Minnesota has been in the news quite a bit recently and not for their on-court play, and we’ll break down the game before going over why I’ll be targeting a first-half bet in this one.
The Minnesota Timberwolves will come into this evening on a three-game winning streak, and the reason that isn’t being discussed is because of Rudy Gobert and Jaden McDaniels' actions on the final day of the regular season. Both of them threw punches with different consequences for each, as Gobert did not make the trip to LA due to a suspension, and McDaniels will miss the game with an injury after punching a wall.
As far as the rest of the team, the Timberwolves will enter with a lot of momentum and now fewer distractions. Even with both players leaving the last game against the Pelicans early, Minnesota still went on to win, making them 7-3 over the last ten games of the season. Defensively the T-Wolves will miss McDaniels and Gobert, as they likely would’ve played big roles in defending Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
The defense may be a question mark, especially with Karl Anthony Towns now needing to guard Davis, but the Timberwolves' offense may actually be in a better position without Gobert. Minnesota was 23rd in offensive efficiency rating during the regular season at 113.3, but when Gobert hasn’t played this season, their offensive rating is 118.1.
Minnesota and the likely better spacing they will have is in for a tough matchup, however, as the Lakers' defense was solid this season, especially recently. The Lakers were 12th in defensive efficiency rating during the regular season, and they were 8th over the past 15 games. When these teams met most recently on March 31st, the Lakers held Minnesota to 111 points on 43% shooting from the field and 33% from deep.
The Timberwolves are currently listed at (+9) point underdogs, but for my play in this one, I’ll be targeting their first-half spread of (+5.5). Minnesota was the third most profitable first-half ATS team during the regular season with a 47-34 ATS record, and they were also the most profitable 1H team in the league when playing on the road.
Minnesota has a first-half NET rating this season of 3.3 which was the 10th best in the league, while LA’s NET rating of .4 was ranked 16th. In all three meetings between these two teams this season, the Timberwolves were either leading or tied at halftime in all of them, including the most recent game, where they had a ten-point lead at halftime despite losing the game.
I don’t think Minnesota has enough on the defensive end to stick around for the entire game, but I think they can keep it close in the first half. Anthony Edwards and Karl Anthony Towns both have better offensive ratings without Gobert on the floor, and with that, I like them to keep it competitive early.
Minnesota Timberwolves 1H (+5.5)