Los Angeles Lakers @ Minnesota Timberwolves -2 (Total: 183)
There’s a lot of love these days in Minneapolis. After Kevin Love inked his 4-year, $60 million dollar deal, things are looking secure and promising in Minny for the first time since Kevin Garnett was patrolling the paint. Factor in the emerging floor-leading brilliance of Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio and a host of talented players shy of their 23rd birthdays, and there is genuine reason for optimism in Minnesota.
The Timberwolves are easily the best ‘last place’ team in the NBA. In fact, even calling them that is a bit unfair. At 9-10 they are right in the mix in the best division in the NBA, despite having to contend with the Thunder, Nuggets, Jazz and Blazers in the Northwest. They have won six of nine, and have some high-quality wins in the mix; beating the Clippers, Mavs and Spurs. However, tonight poses a different challenge, one they have has extreme difficulty overcoming, beating the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers have been pretty pedestrian at times this season, losers of four of their last five and five of seven, including last night’s embarrassing 11-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. There are genuine issues right now in LA, and the erosion of attention and support to the Staple Center mate Clips is the least of them. This team is struggling to score and struggling even more to move the ball effectively. Kobe’s unique brand of contested 20 footers and ten to twelve second dominations of possessions tends to wear on teammates when the winning slows. Just like it has the past three weeks.
SO, all signs seem to scream “Take the Wolves.” But as my good loyal readers know, we like to dig a little deeper behind the lines to find great value picks. So try on these stats for size: The Lakers have won 15 games in a row against Minnesota. In 2010-2011, when both teams were pretty close versions of their current selves, the Lakers won all four games, amassing a 10.3 ppg margin of victory. The year before? Even larger, at 15.5 ppg.
The Lakers have struggled on the road, but perhaps a trip to Minny is exactly what they need to begin regaining their confidence. This game is a basic pick ‘em, and with four years of uninterrupted dominance on their side, I like Kobe and the Lakers, despite some recent play that indicates otherwise.
Free Pick: Los Angeles Lakers +2