The Oklahoma City Thunder (22-17; 26-13 ATS) have slowed down a bit, losing two of their last four games. They will try to bounce back from a tough home loss to the Lakers, but the Thunder will have a tall task at Target Center in Minneapolis on Monday night. Since recording 11 straight losses in December, the Timberwolves (15-23; 16-20-2 ATS) have improved a lot, winning five of their previous 11 contests overall.
The Thunder meet the T-Wolves for the second time this season. On December 6, 2019, they outlasted the Timberwolves 139-127 as 3.5-point home favorites. It was their second straight win over Minnesota, but OKC has lost six of its previous nine meetings with the Timberwolves.
The Thunder are without Nerlens Noel (ankle) who will miss the fifth straight game. The Timberwolves miss Jake Layman (toe), while Karl-Anthony Towns (knee, illness) is doubtful to play Monday night.
I’ve expected to see the hosts as slight favorites around three points, but the Thunder opened as 2.5-point road favorites with a total of 218.5 points.
What’s at Stake?
The Thunder are No. 7 seed in the West at the moment, six and a half games ahead of the Timberwolves who are only game and a half behind No. 8 seed. Hereof, the stake looks big, and don’t forget this is a division showdown.
OKC is coming off a 125-110 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. The Thunder played as 9-point favorites because the Lakers were without both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. On the other side, the Timberwolves were humiliated by the Rockets 139-109 in Houston on Saturday. Still, the Timberwolves are undefeated in three straight outings at home.
The Timberwolves will probably play without Karl-Anthony Towns (26.5 PPG, 11.7 RPG) which means Andrew Wiggins (23.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG) remains the first scoring option. However, Wiggins is averaging only 17.3 points per game over his last six outings, and he needs to step up against the Thunder. Robert Covington has been terrific lately, averaging 13.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals, and 1.4 blocks per contest over his last ten apps.
The key factor for the Timberwolves will be their defense. Minnesota is 16th in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions (109.5) and opponent field-goal percentage (45.6%). In their last three wins, the Timberwolves limited their rivals below 104 points, so they have to play responsible defense in order to beat the Thunder.
Minnesota is terrible offensively, scoring just 106.7 points per 100 possessions (22nd in the league) on 43.2% shooting from the field (28th) and 32.2% from beyond the arc (29th). OKC’s defense is not an elite one, surrendering 108.1 points per 100 possessions (14th) on 45.4% shooting from the field (13th). Also, they will be without Nerlens Noel who’s a great defensive stopper.
On the other side of the ball, the Thunder are tallying 109.7 points per 100 possessions (15th) on 46.5% shooting from the field (9th) and 34.0% from downtown (25th). Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leads the way, averaging 19.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, but the Thunder are a proper team with five guys scoring in double figures.
Considering the teams’ current form, we should see a tight battle decided by a few points. The Timberwolves have finally found some rhythm when playing without their best player, and I expect them to extend a winning streak at home to four games. Minnesota is 3-0 SU and ATS over its last three showings at Target Center after suffering nine consecutive straight-up and ATS losses.
The Timberwolves have dominated the Thunder lately, winning six of their previous nine encounters and covering eight times in that span. Also, the T-Wolves are 7-1 ATS in their last eight home meetings with the Thunder. OKC has been playing in a terrific form lately. The Thunder are 14-5 SU and ATS in their last 19 games overall. Also, OKC is ridiculous 26-13 ATS on the season, and I think that’s unsustainable. I expect a drop in performance very soon.
I would stick with the hosts to cover and avoid betting on the totals. The over is 8-1 in the last nine encounters between Minnesota and Oklahoma City, but the under has hit in seven of Oklahoma’s last ten games and nine of Minnesota’s previous 13 contests. I would rather go with the under, as Minnesota’s best chance to win is by playing tough defense. Also, both OKC and Minnesota have been struggling from downtown all season.