By tomorrow night, the official playoff bracket for the NBA will be set as the winner of this Western Conference Play-In game will take on the number one overall seed Denver Nuggets in the first round. There are certainly some interesting factors heading into tomorrow’s matchup, and we’ll touch on them while previewing the game before we go over my best play for the action.
The Oklahoma City youth movement is officially here as the team, with an average age of 22.8 years old, is one win away from the playoffs. In an exciting game last night, the Thunder came out victorious despite being listed as five-point underdogs before tip-off. Any concerns about OKC’s offense following a rough stretch to end the year can be thrown right out the window, as they scored 123 points on 46% shooting while having three players score 27 or more points.
Oklahoma City got 47% of their points during the regular season from inside the paint, and last night they were able to continue their efficient scoring from that area as they had 58 points in the paint. The impressive part is they were taking on a Pelicans team that was 12th in average points in the paint allowed per game during the regular season.
Arguably the most significant difference in the game for the Thunder was the third quarter, as they came out of halftime and outscored the Pelicans 39-24 in the third quarter, which more than erased their first-half deficit. What’s interesting is the Thunder will be taking on a Timberwolves team that was awesome in the first half against the Lakers but failed to produce in the second half, leading to their eventual overtime loss.
To say Minnesota fell apart at the end of the game is an understatement, as they scored a combined 16 points in both the fourth quarter and overtime after scoring 60 points in the first half. One thing that will be different for the Timberwolves tomorrow is the return of Rudy Gobert from suspension. If anything, Gobert can fix the rebounding issues that Minnesota had in game one and take advantage of a horrid rebounding team in OKC.
For my play in this one, I’ll be targeting the Minnesota Timberwolves' first-half spread of (-2.5). I’m 2-0 in first-half bets for the Western Conference Play-In games, and I think we can continue the streak tomorrow night. OKC went into halftime last night while losing to a Pelicans team that was the fourth most profitable 1H ATS team in the league, and tomorrow they will take on a T-Wolves team that was the third most profitable team in that category.
Minnesota was 10th in first-half NET rating during the regular season and already covered as underdogs in the first half against the Lakers without Rody Gobert. The Thunder were outrebounded in last night’s win and were 27th this season in first-half rebounding percentage, which is a problem since Gobert’s strength is on the boards. I also do not expect Anthony Edwards to have two straight poor performances, so I think he’ll come out of the gate aggressively.
The Timberwolves were 6th in opponent first-half field goal percentage and 9th in 1H field goals allowed per game, which are very similar numbers to the Pelicans. Much like the first game against the Lakers, I only trust Minnesota in the first half and feel more comfortable laying points with them early, especially against a scrappy Thunder team.
Minnesota Timberwolves 1H (-2.5)