NBA Betting: Play Minnesota Timberwolves, Fade Charlotte Hornets
As the NBA season stumbles on, one constant has been to expect the unexpected. The shortened offseason, combined with a plethora of injuries and COVID-19-related issues, as well as a condensed schedule, has muddied up a lot of early play. Much basketball to this point has been largely defined by its inconsistency, as even title contenders struggle to deal with the new normal. Let’s take a look at a couple of teams, one who has surprised, and one who has disappointed, and why it might be time to tack back against the trend.
Play: Minnesota Timberwolves
It’s been a fairly brutal start for the Timberwolves, who head into a two-game home set against Memphis on Wednesday sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference with a record of 3-7 SU. However, the Wolves are 5-5 ATS, and have to get something of a mulligan when it comes to the seven-game losing streak that has so-far defined their season. After all, the team was without Karl-Anthony Towns for the first six of those games. While teams do need to figure out ways to win without their stars, perhaps no team is as dependent on a single player as the Wolves are on Towns. So much so, that the superstar has rushed back into action following a wrist injury, making his return in the team’s 125-122 overtime loss to the Spurs. However, it seems like his desire and motivation lifted his teammates’ spirits. Minnesota fought hard in that loss, and followed it up with a 96-88 win against San Antonio while Towns rested, one night later. Quietly, versatile defender Josh Okogie also returned to the fold, another boost for the Wolves.
Now, the team has a very straightforward week ahead, with two home games against Memphis on Wednesday and Friday. Towns should be in the lineup for Wednesday, at least, and should he have no setbacks, a day off in between bodes well for him to suit up in both encounters. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, remain very shorthanded, as they are without Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Justise Winslow. Memphis has fought hard through the adversity, but simply have a low ceiling, and not enough scoring options. If Towns can go, he should have a very favorable matchup against Jonas Valanciunas, and if he can pull him away from the basket, the Timberwolves should be improved on offense. Memphis have won two games in a row, but one came against the Kyrie-less Nets, and that was followed up with a win against Cleveland, another team decimated by injury. Minnesota still seems to be battling hard, and given the heart that Towns has shown to get back out there, we can expect his teammates to step up in both effort and accountability in these two winnable games.
Fade: Charlotte Hornets
There’s plenty to like about Charlotte’s start to the season. Somewhat criticized for handing Gordon Hayward a huge contract, he’s done exactly what the Hornets dreamed he would, scoring efficiently on a high volume, now that he’s finally got the chance to be the primary scoring option after leaving behind a balanced Boston attack. Rookie LaMelo Ball has been downright brilliant at times, and became the youngest player in league history with a triple-double last week. The Hornets have won four straight games and come into a Wednesday matchup against Dallas at 6-5 SU and ATS. All that said, this could be a good time to hop off the bandwagon, for the time being at least. Charlotte is a 5-point dog against Dallas, a team that will want revenge on the Hornets after an embarrassing 118-99 home loss on December 30. Since then, the Mavericks have gone 4-1 SU and ATS. Luka Doncic finally looks to have shaken off the cobwebs, while Willie Cauley-Stein’s expanded role has helped shore up the defense. The Mavericks have won three straight, with a net rating of +11.6, and a fourth-ranked defensive rating of 104.3. Add to this, Charlotte will have to contend with the debut of Dallas star Kristaps Porzingis, who makes his much-anticipated return from injury on Wednesday. Porzingis should have success right away against a Charlotte team lacking in size. Dallas have played only five games in January, whereas Charlotte have already played seven. Dallas closed as eight-point favorites before the December 30 loss to Charlotte, so this line seems like a touch of an over-correction here.
Following that game, the Hornets have to pick up and head to Tampa to play the Raptors on the second night of a back-to-back. The Raptors have struggled, but showed signs of life on a West Coast trip. Toronto has very little margin of error should it wish to save its season, and a game against Charlotte on no rest is an opportunity its veterans will be keen to take. Charlotte then plays Toronto again, in what will be the Hornets’ third game in four nights, and fourth in six (and tenth in 16!).
Again, while there’s plenty to like about the early returns in Charlotte, it has to still come with something of a grain of salt. The four-game winning streak featured two wins against the Hawks, one against New Orleans, and Monday’s win against New York. It was very good fortune to face teams that came into these matchups struggling for form.