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Western Conference clash here as the Los Angeles Lakers host the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Lakers have been arguably the league's best team so far and have the NBA's best record, while Minnesota has been treading water at 10-11. The Timberwolves have been good on the road this year, but will they be able to pull off this massive upset?
Timberwolves Off Brutal LossThe Minnesota Timberwolves are coming off a very weird season. Things got very tumultuous with the Jimmy Butler situation, and they ended up firing head coach Tom Thibodeau not too long after Butler was traded. They've gone with Ryan Saunders to replace him, and so far they've been up and down this season. They've been pretty respectable in a tough Western Conference, and enter this one at 10 - 11.
Karl Anthony Towns has been dominant, and Andrew Wiggins is having his best season as a pro. Unfortunately, Wiggins is now dealing with a thumb injury. He's missed the last couple of games and if he doesn't play here it's a huge loss. He's averaging 24.9 points per game and is the team's only other go-to scorer besides Towns, so he is absolutely essential for the offense. They've also been getting great contributions from forward Jake Layman, and he has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the young season. He's played a huge role for the team while averaging 26.4 minutes per contest, scoring 10.5 points per game. Unfortunately, he is dealing with an injury too, and it doesn't look like he's going to play here.
The Timberwolves have played pretty well on the road this year with a 7-4 record away from home, but it's hard to tell if the sample size is large enough to draw any conclusions from that. After a hot start to the season they've been fading fast, and are just 3-7 in their last 10 games. They enter this one on a three-game losing streak, and they're coming off one of the most brutal losses in recent NBA history. They lot in overtime to the Thunder in their most recent game following an incredible series of events that took a delay-of-game penalty with one second left for Jordan Bell not having his jersey tucked in for them to lose. It'll be interesting to see how they bounce back from that kind of devastation.
Lakers DominatingThis has understandably been one of the most highly anticipated Lakers seasons in quite some time. After yet another disappointing campaign last year in which they missed the playoffs despite the presence of LeBron James, Los Angeles once again retooled this offseason. They shipped out most of their young core to the Pelicans, landing superstar Anthony Davis in return.
There were some questions about how Davis and James would mesh together, especially after their season-opening loss to the Clippers, but those fears have since been quashed. They've been arguably the league's best team through the first month of the season, compiling a stellar 20-3 record and holding a 3.5 game lead for first place in the Western Conference. They haven't just been winning games they've also been blowing out opponents for the most part, as their recent road trip showed. They just completed a three-game road swing in which they swept all three contests, easily beating the Nuggets, the Jazz, and the Trailblazers, all playoff teams from last year.
CARUSO OUTTA NOWHERE pic.twitter.com/t53KBlZbK6— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 4, 2019
They beat the Trailblazers by 23 points in their most recent game and the Jazz by 25 right before that. James and Davis look like they've been playing with each other for years, and each generational talent is averaging at least 25.6 points per game. Point guard Rajon Rondo is dealing with a minor injury, and you will have to monitor his status for this one. As a team, they're shooting nearly 37% from 3, and they have been playing surprisingly excellent defense as well. So far this season they are giving up the second-fewest points per game in the conference, which I don't think anybody would have imagined before the season. It's title or bust for the Lakers.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I'm not sure any spread would be too large for this game. The Lakers have been absolutely rolling opponents recently, and they beat the Trail Blazers and Jazz by a combined 48 points in their two most recent games. The Timberwolves have started to collapse after a hot start, and have lost three straight games. Coming off their demoralizing overtime loss to the Thunder, I expect them to come out flat. They already started to decline before they got banged up, and now it looks like they will be without Andrew Wiggins which is an absolutely massive loss. Without his scoring, there's no way they keep this one close.
Full-Game Total Pick
I also think the under makes a lot of sense here. This Lakers offense has understandably garnered most of the attention because of their star power, but the defense has quietly been just as good if not better. They're giving up the second fewest points per game in the Western Conference, and I expect them to dominate a Timberwolves offense which isn't as good as its numbers would suggest. Now that they're likely to be playing without Wiggins, I think they're often should sink even lower. They';; also be deflated after that all-time loss to the Thunder, so I don't see them scoring much at all.