Oklahoma City Thunder -11 @ Minnesota Timberwolves (Total: 202.5)
Two weeks ago the NBA world made so much sense; the East would be a battle between Chicago and Miami and the beast of the West was the Thunder. I mean, how could anyone dispute the dominance of Oklahoma City?? They had just handily dispatched of the Heat, Bulls and Lakers in the span of a week and had the best record in all the NBA. Let’s just get past these next three week of regular season minutiae and start the regular season already, right??
Well, perhaps that has been the thought process of the Thunder, because the last few weeks have been rather ugly. They are just 4-3 in their last seven games with understandable losses to the Clippers, Pacers and Bulls; but losses nonetheless. Not exactly the statement you are looking for from a team with its sights set a little bigger than merely “winning a few playoff series.” NBA Champs beat those teams, especially the home game against possible second-round foe Los Angeles Clippers.
If the Thunder have disappointed, then the Timberwolves have disintegrated. Mere weeks after “is Kevin Love a legitimate MVP candidate” talk flooded the sportstalk airwaves, an eight game losing streak (six of them by nine or more points) have wiped Minnesota completely off the playoff radar and are now flirting with the possibility of having the fifth or sixth pick in the NBA Draft. To make matters even worse, Kevin Love is out “indefinitely” with a mild concussion.
I am not the GM of the T’Wolves, but if my team had lost eight games in a row, was nearly mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and we were playing the best team in the West, there is no way in hell I am rushing my franchise player back on to the court tonight. There is still no official word on Love’s status for tonight’s game, but I think it is a pretty safe wager than Love is in street clothes holding a clipboard tonight.
Eleven points is a big margin, especially for a rivalry that has been much closer than expected over the past two seasons. The Thunder have won ten in a row against Minny, but the games have been very competitive. Two have gone to overtime, and the last seven have all finished within tonight’s eleven point margin. However, Kevin love was playing in those games, and Minnesota, at least ostensibly, had something for play for in all those games. Tonight? Neither of the above. Minnesota has lost by double digits in five of their last eight and six of twelve overall. This is a team that sees the end of the season in sight, and knows there is not much left to really play for. They are playing with the sputtering finality of a team with lofty aspirations that have been realized to now be out of reach. Perhaps they muster up a decent effort tonight without Love, but I don’t think it is particularly likely.
Free Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder -11