Free NBA Picks: Timberwolves at Bucks Odds
by Alan Matthews - 12/27/2013
In many ways, handicapping Saturday NBA games is the toughest of the week. I write these previews on Fridays to get the information out early and obviously use the opening early lines. However, a lot of teams play back-to-back on the weekends because they want their arenas full on weekend nights when people are out and about. Makes business sense. I was leaning toward Miami at Portland for this Saturday -- a potential NBA Finals preview, although I still think the Blazers are frauds -- but no opening line there. Actually I bring this up because betting on the Heat could be a prosperous decision this year. You can usually tell when the team is going to rest Dwayne Wade. If the big game is the second of a back-to-back, he probably sits out the first one. And generally teams like to keep their season-ticket holders happy, so then won't rest the stars at home if possible. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich rarely does that, for example.
That brings me to Saturday's Minnesota at Milwaukee game. The Bucks played Friday night in Brooklyn while the Wolves were home to Washington. I sort of root for the Bucks because their owner, former US Senator Herb Kohl, so desperately wants to please his fans that he won't let his team just outright stink for a few years and get a star through the draft. It's not like big-time free agents are going to play in Milwaukee. It's only 90 miles or so from Chicago, but it might as well be 9,000 if you have been there. The Bucks also aren't a lock to stay put, although Kohl is doing everything he can to make sure that happens. The Bradley Center is pretty out of date. Kohl is 78 and there's worry that if he passes, other areas will pounce. Seattle for one. Kansas City maybe.
The good news is that the Bucks do stink, by accident really. They signed O.J. Mayo this offseason and do have some good pieces in John Henson, Larry Sanders and probably the most intriguing rookie in Giannis Antetokounmpo, i.e. the Greek Freak. He's totally raw but fun to watch. He's also only 19 and apparently has been told he might grow to 7-foot tall. If you do a redraft of the 2013 draft, he's in the Top 3. It really behooves Milwaukee to be lousy this year and add that other potential star going forward.
I thought the Timberwolves were a decent Western Conference sleeper. Maybe they still are, but they have mostly disappointed despite MVP-caliber play by Kevin Love.
Timberwolves at Bucks Betting Story Lines
The bad news for the Bucks' tanking efforts is that they were expected to get back center and shot-blocking stud Larry Sanders (Hey Now!) for Friday's game against the Nets. He missed nearly two months with a ligament issue in his thumb, which may or may not have come from a bar fight. Bucks coach Larry Drew didn't use Sanders much in the three games he was healthy, which makes no sense to me. The team gave Sanders a $44 million extension this offseason, and clubs like Milwaukee can't afford to be wrong about paying guys that much. Fellow frontcourt mate Ersan Ilyasova was also expected to return from injury on Friday. He missed the past three games with an ankle injury. Milwaukee does have a very solid frontcourt when everyone is healthy. John Henson has really blossomed with the extra playing time, averaging 12.6 points and 8.0 rebounds.
The Bucks actually enter on a one-game home winning streak, which is impressive considering the have three home wins all year. Only Utah has as few home victories. Milwaukee's came over Philly, which doesn't mean much.
Minnesota would be on the outside of the playoffs looking in as things stand. Of course, if the Wolves were in the East they would probably be the third-best team in the conference. With Ricky Rubio and Love, the Timberwolves can score with anyone. They just can't stop the other team from scoring. They are 13-9 entering Friday when scoring 100 points and 0-6 when not. Love is a beast, No. 3 in the NBA in scoring (25.9 points) and first in rebounding (13.0 per game). He torched the Clippers for 45 points and 19 rebounds on Dec. 22, but predictably Minnesota lost despite scoring 116 points. It led the game by five with 29.4 seconds left and then by two with possession with 13.2 to go. Love won't win MVP -- LeBron James or Kevin Durant will -- but should come in third.
I really don't get why Minnesota isn't better. Rubio can't shoot to save his life but is a terrific passer and No. 2 in steals. Nikola Pekovic is one of the NBA's best centers, averaging 17.4 points and 9.0 rebounds. And Kevin Martin (20.2 points) has been a great signing. Just proves you can't build a fantasy team and then succeed in the NBA. Perhaps Minnesota doesn't have enough glue guys. Chase Budinger is one of those guys but hasn't played this season because of a knee injury and is at least a week away.
Timberwolves at Bucks NBA Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, Minnesota is a 6.5-point favorite with a total of 201. All trends entering Friday: The Wolves are 15-13 ATS (9-7 on road) and 13-15 “over/under” (8-8 on road). The Bucks are 11-17 ATS (4-10 at home) and 15-13 O/U (6-8 at home). Minnesota is 0-5 ATS in its past five in the second of a back-to-back. The Bucks are 2-7 ATS in their past nine Saturday games. They are 0-5 ATS in their past five against the West. The under is 7-1 in Minnesota's past eight vs. the East. The over is 6-0 in Milwaukee's past six overall. Minnesota is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The over has hit in four of those.
Free NBA Picks: Timberwolves at Bucks Betting Predictions
This is the first of two meetings this season. The Wolves swept last season's season series. Both teams have to travel on Friday night, so that's irrelevant. I'm actually shocked at this line; it's like the oddsmakers are looking at this matchup as a fantasy basketball game. Does Minnesota have more talent? No doubt. But I'm taking the points and the over.
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