The 22-22 Indiana Pacers visit the 17-28 Minnesota Timberwolves tonight in a battle between two playoff hopefuls trending in opposite directions (8pm ET Thursday). Indiana has lost three games in a row to fall back to eighth in the Eastern Conference, while Minnesota’s three-game winning streak has it staying alive in the playoff hunt.
It has been a disappointing year for the Pacers. They haven’t played up to their potential on either end of the floor and remain very inconsistent. The Timberwolves have been a disappointment most of the season too, but now seem to be figuring some things out. Somehow, they are only 2.5 games out of the No. 8 spot in the top-heavy Western Conference.
Indiana will attempt to get back to its winning ways on Thursday, while the Timberwolves will hope to continue building momentum.
This preview highlights the main storylines that could dictate how this Pacers vs Timberwolves game plays out and concludes with our betting predictions and picks.
Are the Timberwolves Over Their Late-Game Struggles?
The Timberwolves’ struggles in the second half of games and in clutch situations have been well documented this season. Despite having a plus-5.2 net rating in the first half of games (sixth-best in the NBA), Minnesota’s net rating falls to second-last in the league in second halves (negative-7.7) and it consistently falters at the end of games.
However, the Wolves have now won three games in a row, all by three points or fewer. They have executed well down the stretch to defeat all three opponents.
They are facing the Pacers at home tonight, which is a matchup that seems relatively evenly-matched. It is reasonable to believe that the Wolves will have to go down to the wire again. Can they deliver for a fourth straight game?
Who Wins the Matchup Between Andrew Wiggins and Paul George?
Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins (pictured) and Indiana’s Paul George are mostly similar players. George is more polished and much better on defense, but each guy is an athletic slasher who depends on a sometimes-effective jump shot. Inconsistency is a problem for both players, though, even though Wiggins averages 22.0 points per game and George is at 22.2 points per game.
Presumably, Wiggins and George will guard each other Thursday night. The winner of the contest could come down to which player takes the defensive end of the floor more seriously. Both players’ priority should be to keep their matchup out of the paint and force him into contested jump shots.
Which Bench Steps Up?
Neither the Pacers nor the Timberwolves are known for their production off the bench. The Pacers are dealing with some injuries to their reserves (Aaron Brooks, Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey) that should at least affect those players on Thursday, if not sideline them entirely.
The Wolves feature several inexperienced, one-dimensional players on their bench who have not stood out this season. That said, young players like Kris Dunn and Shabazz Muhammad have the potential to impact games on their good nights. Muhammad, in particular, has averaged 14.5 points per game on 61.8 percent shooting in his last four contests.
Considering both teams’ starters are pretty solid, one standout performance from a guy like Al Jefferson or Muhammad could make all the difference.
Our Preview’s Indiana Pacers vs Minnesota Timberwolves Betting Picks & Predictions
With the injury issues to Indiana’s bench, the Pacers’ futility on the road (6-16) and the opposite directions these teams are heading, I see the Wolves as the definite favorite here.
While Paul George will probably win his individual matchup with Andrew Wiggins by a slim margin, I don’t think the Wolves are so dependent on Wiggins that his potential struggles would sink them. Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio should provide the impact needed to give the Timberwolves a fourth straight win. So here are this matchup’s advised betting predictions and picks:
- The best of the usa online betting sites have the Timberwolves favored by three points, but I still believe they are the safe bet to cover that spread. Bet on Minnesota -3pts @ -110 with any of Bovada, 5Dimes, BetOnline or MyBookie.
- The common over-under on the total points for this contest is 212pts at -110 betting odds. With some key Pacer scorers off the bench gone and some entertaining individual matchups on the docket, I could see this one turning into more of a defensive struggle. Take the under 212.5pts @ -108 with BetOnline.