It’s a race for the third seed as the Western Conference playoff teams jockey for position. That spot is held down by the (38-26) Minnesota Timberwolves but it is tenuous. Several teams are within striking distance, including Minnesota’s opponent tonight, the (34-26) Portland Trail Blazers (10:30pm ET Thursday).
Leading the pack in the West are the (47-13) Houston Rockets and (47-14) Golden State Warriors and the distance between themselves as the rest of the conference isn’t even close. Realistically, the best the other playoff teams are playing for is that third seed.
Currently, seven teams are within 5.5 games back of the Timberwolves for that spot. With many of the teams slated to play against each other several times from now until the end of the regular season, the West is about to get wild.
This preview will analyze the past performances and key aspects of this matchup before settling on its Minnesota Timberwolves vs Portland Trail Blazers predictions and betting picks.
Previous Encounters & Past Performance
Portland and Minnesota are not only fighting for that third playoff seed but both are also competing for the distinction of being the Northwest Division champions. While divisions are largely symbolic only in basketball, the rivalries aren’t. Not to mention in the case of the Northwest, it is going to be one of the most highly contested divisions until the end of the season as right now, all five teams are within 5.5 games of each other. No other division from top to bottom, has their teams even half as close.
Portland and Minnesota have already met three times this season. Minnesota won the first meeting in December, which really was a nail-biter. Jimmy Butler, who had been mired in injury during the game, put the team on his back, scoring 37 points including the go-ahead free throws with less than three seconds left on the clock. Jamal Crawford added 23 points off the bench including 16 in the pivotal fourth quarter of the game. Crawford and Butler combined to score Minnesota’s last 21 points in the game to win 108-107 despite Portland leading by nine points entering the fourth.
In the second meeting, which was almost exactly a month later, Portland once again fell to the Timberwolves in Minnesota. This game was much less close. Despite leading 33-31 out of the gate, it was a 26 point second quarter from the Timberwolves (and just 10 points from the Blazers), that saw the tide of the game turn in Minnesota’s favor. The Timberwolves led from that point on, winning the game 120-103. Butler again led the team with 24, but was joined on the stat sheets by Jeff Teague’s 22 points and Karl-Anthony Towns’ line of 20 points and 11 rebounds. It was Towns’ NBA-leading 37th double-double of the season and helped give the Timberwolves their first perfect 5-0 homestand since 2001.
Just 10 days later, these two divisional rivals met again, this time on Portland’s home turf. Desperate for a win after going 3-4 in their prior seven, the Blazers played the game they needed to against a tough opponent. Tied at the half, Portland went onto autopilot in the third, scoring 43 points and seemingly not missing a single shot. Damian Lillard who led the team with 31 points, called the quarter a “showcase.” It was the most points Portland had scored in a single quarter all season. It was the Trailblazer’s seventh straight win at home. For Minnesota, Butler missed the game with a sore right knee.
By the Numbers
Getting ready to host the Timberwolves for the second and final time this season, Portland enters this game coming off a pretty strong month of February. The team is 6-4 overall (3-1 at home) but undefeated since coming back from the All-Star break. Minnesota is also 6-4 in the month of February, but is just 1-3 on the road in the month.
On the season, the Timberwolves are just 13-19 on the road compared to Portland’s 18-11 home record. However, Minnesota does have a stellar conference record, going 28-11 against the West and 9-2 within the Northwest Division. The Trailblazers meanwhile are just 21-15 in conference and 5-6 in the division. They are however one of the two blemishes on Minnesota’s otherwise perfect divisional record.
Our Preview’s Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers Picks & Predictions
Portland enters this game riding a four-game winning streak that was kicked off with a win over the NBA’s second best team, the Golden State Warriors. That is nothing to sneeze at especially when you consider that all of Golden State’s top guys played significant minutes. Kevin Durant even scored 50 points to lead all players. Lillard kept pace though and was brilliant for his team, scoring 44 points of his own and eight rebounds. He was one of just three Blazers in double figures compared to four players with such numbers for Golden State.
For the struggling Blazers, this game was really considered by many to be the start of a turnaround and so far, that has been the case. One of the wins over the winning streak came against the currently eighth seeded Los Angeles Clippers, while another came against the Utah Jazz, who find themselves just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot.
The Timberwolves are riding a two-game winning streak of their own, but their wins are far less impressive. The two teams Minnesota has beaten are the Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings, who had a combined 38-84 record on the season.
Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, much like in their last meeting against the Trail Blazers, Jimmy Butler will be forced to miss the game. Butler, who has been hampered by a sore knee for much of the past month, underwent surgery a few days ago and is listed as being out indefinitely.
Without Butler, it’s hard to imagine the Timberwolves will be able to keep control of the three seed especially given all of the teams currently breathing down their necks. One of these teams is Portland and the way they have seemed to turn a corner, it’s hard to imagine they won’t come away from Thursday with another victory at home and their fifth in a row overall.
So our Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers predictions and betting picks for this preview go something like this:
- The top sports betting websites for United States residents all make Portland a 4.5pts favorite on the spread. This preview reckons that deficit should be higher. So bet on the Trail Blazers -4.5pts @ -110 with any of Bovada, Intertops, 5Dimes, Bookmaker or BetOnline.
- Similarly, the same firms make over / under level for the total points the same at 218pts. So the second of our picks is to take the over 218pts @ -110 with Bovada or Intertops.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.